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Kristin Murphy, Deseret News, File

Bill aimed at reducing divorce by increasing marriage fees dies in Senate

By Katie McKellar  |  Posted Feb 13th, 2017 @ 7:01pm



SALT LAKE CITY — A bill that would have increased Utah's marriage license fee by $20 with the goal of promoting stronger, longer-lasting marriages died on the Senate floor Monday.

SB29, sponsored by Sen. Allen Christensen, R-North Ogden, called for the extra fee to be put in a restricted account to support marriage and relationship strengthening efforts. Couples who completed premarital education or counseling courses would have been eligible for a $20 rebate.

Churches and religious groups offering formal premarital education or counseling would have been exempt from the course requirements.

The bill had received a favorable recommendation from the Senate Judiciary Committee, with a lone dissenting vote from Sen. Luz Escamilla, D-Salt Lake City, who took issue that the bill provided an exemption for churches and argued it would hurt engaged couples.

The bill was on track to pass on the Senate floor by one vote Monday, but it failed when several Republican lawmakers changed their votes without explanation. It failed on a 14-14 vote, with one lawmaker absent. Votes were cast after little debate.

In an interview after the vote, Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Provo, one of the lawmakers who changed his vote, said he had initially marked his vote as a "yes" thinking it was a different bill, then realized he needed to change it to a "no."

"We really don't need government increasing the cost of marriage," Bramble said. "I question whether that's really the role of government, to get deeper involved in the institution of marriage."

Utah's marriage license fees, varying from county to county, currently range from $25 to $50.

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