Gaston County is considering a 30-day waiting period on marriages performed by magistrates, unless the couple can show they’ve received premarital counseling. That strikes me as a very reasonable idea, particularly if Kinston Free Press’s editorial against it is the best its opponents can do:
The proposal originated from a pro-marriage advocacy group in Gaston County and is based on the premise that counseling will help couples, when faced with marital struggles, work through their differences rather than take them to divorce court. Fewer divorces will mean fewer single-parent families, and two-parent families are generally good for raising children.
Ah, it’s intended as a pro-marriage measure, rather than a deterrent to the same (think waiting periods on guns?). In that case, surely it’s the duty of every good newspaper to oppose the measure vociferously. Oh wait, there’s more:
It’s important to note that while the idea has been floated, no such bill has been introduced in the General Assembly. And the idea that’s floating around would have the program initially operate as a pilot program in Gaston County.
However, pilot programs have a way of spreading like wildfire. Once they catch on in one county, they tend to spread across the state.
Translation: the real problem with this proposal is that it might actually, like, work.
We’re not here to argue against couples getting counseling or lots of advice before getting hitched. But we don’t think it’s wise for the government to make such counseling a stipulation for getting married by a magistrate.
Ah yes, the old “don’t let big government go paternalistic on you” argument against government imposing its own restrictions on a government institution. In a state that requires divorcing couples to wait an entire year before they can get out of a bad marriage, is it that much to ask that they obtain counseling or wait 30 days before rushing into one in the first place?
The waiting period wouldn’t apply to weddings officiated by ministers. The thinking there, legislators say, is that ministers won’t join a couple in matrimony unless he or she has counseled the couple first.
While some ministers do make premarital counseling a practice, not all do.
OK, then. Let’s make the requirement apply to religious and non-religious weddings alike.
Having such a requirement could put kinks in couples’ wedding plans.
Correction: having such a requirement could put kinks in foolish and immature couples’ impulsive wedding plans. It imposes no kinks whatsoever on the plan of any couple wishing to remain engaged for one whole month – or even on those who don’t but are willing to obtain premarital counseling.
Making getting married more complicated could likely lead to more couples going to other states — states with less-restrictive marriage laws — to get married.
Here we find the limits to the domino theory. What gets tried on a pilot basis in one NC county will spread like wildfire to the other 99 counties within the state, but will stop in its tracks as soon as it hits a state line. If there’s one thing worse than slippery slope logic, it’s the “slippery to a point, after which it will magically cease slipping at all” logic employed here. Besides, if the real problem is other states’ laws not being restrictive enough for our tastes, the answer is to change our marriage law so as not to recognize out of state marriages between NC residents that do not comport to our standards. We don’t let residents get divorced in other states or countries, so why should marriage be any different?
Good intentions are behind the idea to impose the waiting period for people getting married by magistrates. But good intentions don’t always make good law.
No, but last time I checked, they didn’t automatically make bad law, either. If the worst thing its opponents can say against this proposal is that it is motivated by good intentions, I think it’s well worth a try.