Louisiana became the first state in the U.S. to make
covenant marriages available in its territory.
House Bill 756, "Covenant Marriage Act," was the first piece of
legislation in the U.S. concerning covenant marriages. 4
Rep. Tony Perkins (R-Baker) was the author. He now heads the Family
Research Council, a Fundamentalist group based in Washington DC whose main
activities are opposition to both abortion access and equal rights for gays
and lesbians. The bill was passed by the state
legislature on 1997-JUN-23, and was signed into law by Governor Mike foster on
1997-JUL-15. It took effect on 1997-AUG-15. 5,9
The bill requires:
Marriage licenses to have a statement of intent to be
completed by one or both spouses that the "We, [name of intended husband]
and [name of intended wife], do hereby declare our intent to contract a
Covenant Marriage and, accordingly, have executed a declaration of intent
The couple to recite a declaration: "We do solemnly declare
that marriage is a covenant between a man and a woman who agree to live
together as husband and wife for so long as they both may live. We have chosen
each other carefully and disclosed to one another everything which could
adversely affect the decision to enter into this marriage. We have received
premarital counseling on the nature, purposes, and responsibilities of
marriage. We have read the Covenant Marriage Act, and we understand that a
Covenant Marriage is for life. If we experience martial difficulties, we
commit ourselves to take all reasonable efforts to preserve our marriage,
including marital counseling.
With full knowledge of what this commitment means, we do hereby declare that
our marriage will be bound by Louisiana law on Covenant Marriages and we
promise to love, honor, and care for one another as husband and wife for the
rest of our lives."
The couple to provide an affidavit that they have received
appropriate pre-marital counseling
A notarized attestation by the counselor that the couple has
been suitably counseled and provided with a pamphlet called "Covenant
A divorce for a spouse in a covenant marriage may only be
granted upon proof that the other spouse has:
Committed adultery, or
Been imprisoned for a felony, or
Abandoned the home for a year and "constantly refuses to
Committed sexual or physical abuse on a spousal or child of
one of the spouses.
An alternative ground is that they have lived separately without
reconciliation, for 12, 18 or 24 months (depending upon circumstances).
A spouse in a covenant marriage can obtain a judgment of
judicial separation if they have first obtained counseling and if:
The other spouse has committed adultery, or has been
imprisoned for a felony, or has physically or sexually abused the spouse or
a child of one of the spouses, or has left the home for one year and "constantly
refuses to return," or
They have been living apart without reconciliation for 24
The other spouse has rendered their living together
insupportable due to habitual intemperance, excesses, cruel treatment, or
Already-married couples may designate their marriage to be a covenant
marriage. They must recite a statement, provide an affidavit that they
have received counseling, and provide a notarized attestation from the
counselor that the couple has received counseling and a copy of the state
Impact of Covenant Marriage in Louisiana:
In the three states that permit covenant marriages, the vast majority of
couples still prefer to have "ordinary marriages" which
provide for no-fault divorces.
The first covenant marriage law was enacted in Louisiana in 1997-AUG.
Initially, fewer than 1% of new marriages were covenants. This rose to an
estimated 2.9% by mid-1998. 5
A Gallup Poll conducted in Louisiana between 1998-JUL and SEP -- about
one year after the bill became law. The margin of error is 4.4 percentage
Only 43% of subjects recalled hearing about covenant marriages.
Only 35% remembered the Louisiana law having been passed.
Most were not aware that currently-married couples could convert
their relationship to a covenant
25% said that it was too soon to tell if covenant marriages are a
61% would have a positive reaction if their child chose a covenant
63% believe that covenant marriages will strengthen family life
59% believe that covenant marriages will last longer that regular
58% believe that they will be better for children. 6,7
Judge Jules Edwards of the Lafayette District of Louisiana decided to
refuse to marry couples who had chosen a conventional, contract marriage. However, he
performs covenant marriages for free. He wrote: "I do not charge
anything for this service. The celebration of a covenant marriage helps me
fulfill my commitment to strengthen the family as an institution."
The above material is general overview of covenant marriage. Do
not base any personal decisions on them. First, read the actual laws in
your state or consult a lawyer who is skilled in family law.