Despite its earlier protests of government intrusion into private lives, the Texas House approved a bill today doubling marriage license fees to $60 unless couples take state-sanctioned classes on how to be good spouses.
The marriage fee hike, which unanimously passed the Senate last week, is now on its way to Gov. Rick Perry.
Couples that agree to take specific classes outlined in the bill will get free marriage licenses, but it is not yet clear how much the classes will cost.
The House, which earlier voted against raising the marriage license fee, reversed that stance with a 84-56 vote.
Under the bill, those wishing to tie the knot can avoid the marriage fee hike by taking an eight-hour class on how to succeed as a spouse.
The bill specifies that couples must take the classes within a year of applying for a marriage license. If they take the class, the bill also waives a 72-hour waiting period for getting married after a license is granted.
The classes must teach couples conflict management, communication skills and keys to a successful marriage. It does not require that couples be instructed on how to be good parents or how to manage finances.
[Bill author Rep. Warren] Chisum has said no special degrees or licenses are required to teach the class. Anyone wishing to instruct couples can take a class lasting only a day or two.
[Rep. Tommy] Merritt predicted that marriage classes will pop up around Texas just as defensive driving classes did, based on a bill the Legislature passed.
"There are individuals that make money off of defensive driving. This is just another way for some opportunist to come here under the perception that this is a good idea," he said. "A lot of people will make money off of it. It's terrible."