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November 15, 2012
Column #1,629
What Matters Is The Marriage Gap Not A Gender Gap
By Mike McManus

According to CNN exit polls, what mattered in the election was the gender gap. Women supported Obama by 11 points while men favored Romney by 7 points.

However, David Usher, President of the Center for Marriage Policy argues, “What matters is not the gender gap, but the marriage gap.” Married men supported Romney by a big 60% to 38%, and even married women, by 53% to 46%.

By contrast, unmarried men voted for Obama by 56% to 48%, and unmarried women by more than 2-1.

Therefore, if conservatives want to win next time, they need to ask their churches to do a better job preparing couples for marriage, enriching existing ones and saving those in trouble. Conservatives are church members, therefore their voice can be heard.

The agenda for the next few years should be to restore marriage in America. Consider three steps.

First, create Community Marriage Policies to cut divorce and cohabitation rates.

In Austin, Texas pastors and priests from 252 churches signed a covenant that all would require couples getting married to react to a premarital inventory with 150 statements like these:

• When we are having a problem, my partner often refuses to talk about it.
• Sometimes I wish my partner were more careful in spending money.

They also agreed to train couples in healthy marriages to meet with premarital couples to
discuss the issues. In addition, the churches held an annual marriage enrichment event. They also pledged to train couples whose marriages nearly failed, to mentor those in crisis.

If one spouse wanted a divorce, but their partner did not, churches helped the committed spouse to take a course with a friend of the same gender, “Marriage 911,” designed to attract back their errant mate. Finally, if this was a remarriage, with stepchildren, churches agreed to create “Stepfamily Support Groups,” that saved 80% of marriages that usually divorce at a 70% rate.

Result: Austin’s divorce rate plunged 50% in five years.

Disclosure: my wife and I persuaded the clergy to create that Community Marriage Policy, and have done so in 229 cities to date. On average, divorce rates fall 17.5% in seven years, and cohabitation drops by a third compared to similar cities in the same state.

And in some cities, marriage rates are rising.

Second, change state law to cut the divorce rate.

Americans divorce at the world’s highest rate. After five years of marriage, 23% of Americans have divorced which is triple the 8% of British or French. Why? If a British spouse wants a divorce, but their partner is opposed, the couple must wait five years to get divorced and six years in France. That allows a lot of time for reconciliation.

By contrast, 25 U.S. states have a ZERO waiting period or only 20-60 days.

Therefore, a Coalition for Divorce Reform calls for a minimum of a one-year waiting period during which the couple would take classes on how to communicate and resolve conflict better. And if the couple has children, they would have to take a course on the impact of divorce on kids before filing for divorce. The year’s delay combined with marriage education would slash the divorce rate.

Another divorce legal reform would reward the spouse trying to preserve the marriage with 50% to 67% of child custody time and 60% to 100% of family assets. Why should a father who abandons his family to run off with a younger woman get half the family assets of a marriage he has destroyed, impoverishing his kids?

Conversely, most divorces are filed by women, on the assumption they will get custody of the kids. What if the father got custody and most family assets? How many would file for divorce? The divorce rate would plunge.

Third, stop subsidizing cohabitation. Most out-of-wedlock births are to cohabiting couples. Yet the government gives the mother of an unwed birth Medicaid, food stamps, the Earned Income Tax Credit, housing subsidies, etc. as if she were raising the child alone. But she has access to the father’s income as if she were married.

That’s why cohabitation has soared 18-fold to 7.6 million couples last year and unwed births are now 41% of all births. No wonder the marriage rate has plunged. Yet if she marries the father, she loses $25,000 of benefits.

Conservatives: persuade your governor to say in his State of the State Address, “If cohabiting couples with children marry, we will not cut benefits for two years, and then taper them off. The state should subsidize marriage – not cohabitation.”

Let’s rebuild marriage in America!

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