The Oklahoma legislature is currently locked in a dispute over whether to tackle the state’s divorce rate, the third-highest in the nation. Although some Republicans are pushing the legislation, other conservatives are outraged at the “government intrusion” into their private lives:
Republican members proposed three pieces of legislation imposing new regulations on marriage and divorce in Oklahoma. Two of the measures were defeated, but another — requiring counseling for those planning to wed, and therapy sessions for couples considering divorce — is awaiting action.
The issue has produced sharp clashes among conservative colleagues who normally find themselves in agreement. The debates have featured charges of hypocrisy and of betraying Republican principles against government intrusion into private lives. […]
“How far do I want government to come into my home and your home about private personal matters?” asked Rep. Leslie Osborn, a Republican from Tuttle, in a debate. She referred to state government as a “huge monster.”
ThinkProgress spoke with state Rep. Jeannie McDaniel (D), who opposes the divorce bills because one hour of counseling — as proposed by one of the measures — won’t make a major difference in people’s marriages:
We know that one hour of counseling doesn’t do anything. We have counseling programs, especially in Family and Children Services…for families that are going through divorce who have children…and those have proven to be very effective. And they’re paid for by our Department of Human Services; they have grants available. They’ve been in place for over 14 years. They have a very high success rate of good outcomes. … They [participants in the programs] sort of laughed at this and said, “One hour, you’ve got to be kidding?” And it can be by anybody — it can be by your priest, it can be by a faith-based counselor.
McDaniel noted that some of the strongest debates on the divorce measures are coming from within the Republican Party, many of whom are against the government intervention. However, some of their concern rings a bit hollow; some of these same lawmakers — including Osborn — have had no problem imposing “government intrusion” into women’s “private lives.” Last fall, the Oklahoma passed a law that would have collected personal details about every single abortion performed in the state and posted them on a public website. (The Oklahoma County District Court struck down the law last month because it covered too many topics for one piece of legislation.)
McDaniel noted that Republican lawmakers are now putting forth several anti-choice measures once again, as single bills. Just last week, for example, the state House passed a measure “that would require a woman be given a description of ultrasound images of her unborn child and be offered those images before getting an abortion.” Rep. Dan Sullivan (R), the sponsor of the abortion website legislation, opposed the divorce counseling bill in a Feb. 22 vote.
Oklahoma also bans same-sex couples from marrying — a clear “government intrusion” into private life that many Republican lawmakers seem to find perfectly acceptable.
Tony Perkins, president of the far-right Family Research Council, said that he endorses efforts to lower the divorce rate, as long as the government does not “mandate” them. “I prefer the carrot versus the stick,” said Perkins, who opposes marriage equality.