Should Pre-Marriage Classes Be Mandatory?

With its fancy new legal marijuana, Colorado may seem like the land of the free. But a new proposal, The Colorado Marriage Education Act, reminds us that repealing some nonsensical laws won't stop others from springing up Hydra-like in their place. The proposed ballot initiative would require all would-be married couples in the state to take 10 hours of mandatory pre-marriage classes. Divorcees seeking to remarry could face 20 to 30 hours of classes. Couples who voluntarily repeated the class each year would get an additional marriage tax break.

Kids Against Divorce, the California-based group behind the proposal, told the Denver Post that the purpose was to "better prepare individuals going into marriage to fulfill their new roles as spouse and potentially as parent" and "protect children given that marriage is the foundation of a family unit." There are so many unreasonable facets to this that it's hard to know where to start. First, there's the time constraint issue. For lower-income workers, people who work multiple jobs, or people who have kids already, it may not actually be all that easy to work 10 (or 20 or 30) hours of marriage classes into the schedule. Off the bat the proposal seems pretty discriminatory, and likely to discourage some cohabitating couples from taking the marriage plunge.

More egregiously, it pushes a State Knows Best agenda that seems more appropriate to Soviet Russia than modern-day America. What gives bureaucrats the authority to define what makes for a good marriage? And then push that highly subjective social agenda in the form of state-sanctioned marriage classes? It's ludicrous.

But before we get too worked up, let's consider the proposed law's chances. In order to even get on the November 2014 ballot, Kids Against Divorce will need to gather 86,105 Coloradans' signatures by August 4. Then the good people of Colorado would have to actually vote in favor of forcing themselves through more hoops for a marriage license, which seems unlikely. Unfortunately, Kids Against Divorce is readying similar proposals for states across the country, so we can expect to hear a lot more about this silliness before it blows over.