I am continually disgusted by the actions of the Colorado legislature when it comes to dealing with the problem of domestic, or intimate partner violence (DV). Belatedly recognizing that a problem existed, in 1994 they began passing a series of draconian laws that now makes virtually every quarrel between a couple criminal "domestic violence."
For a decade the Equal Justice Foundation has been tracking the impact of these laws on family violence. The principal metrics that we, and others have been able to measure are:
Criminal domestic violence occurs in approximately 4 out of every 1,000 households (0.4%) according to National Crime Victimization Studies (NCVS), or roughly 7,500-8,000 cases a year in Colorado, a state with a population of 4.9 million.
In Colorado Springs, and now replicated in several other cities, the principal effect of the DV laws has been a dramatic drop in the number of 911 domestic disturbance calls after 1994.
Between 1995 and 2007 the percentage of police incidents of domestic violence involving married couples dropped from 42% to 31% as apparently fewer couples marry or they have learned not to call the police for any reason. The propaganda about "spousal abuse" no longer applies.
Police incident reports of actual domestic violence only increased about 12% between 1998 and 2007 despite a 23% increase in Colorado's population. That is more likely due to reduced 911 domestic disturbance calls than an actual decrease in DV.
Between 1998 and 2007 Colorado population grew by 23% while the number of domestic violence court cases reported by the state court administrator increased by 43% as "domestic violence" cases under current laws rarely involve actual violence.
Other metrics give basically the same result. There is no measurable change in actual domestic violence, police incidents involving violence are decreasing primarily because citizens are afraid to call 911, but the number of DV court cases continues to increase due to the feeding frenzy of the DV industry which has succeeded in defining virtually everything a couple may do as "domestic violence."
This feeding frenzy is supported by a legislature whose predictable response is to throw money at the problem. Whether the funding actually fixes the problem, which it demonstrably has not, is basically irrelevant to both parties. If something constructive were done toward abating family violence that would not be in the interest of the DV industry.
It is no secret that times are tough and that in Colorado Springs we have a huge problem with troops who have been deployed into combat multiple times and are now suffering from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or traumatic brain injuries (TBI). For veterans with partners, virtually every physical manifestation of PTSD and TBI is criminal domestic violence under current Colorado laws. And a soldier with a DV conviction in Colorado is a dead man walking.
Given the above, state senator John Morse (Democrat-El Paso County) came up with the politically brilliant idea of providing additional funding for the DV industry by taxing both marriage and divorce with the rationale that his bill (SB09-068):
"Specifies that a percentage of the moneys collected from the fee increases shall be used for a specified time to reimburse domestic abuse programs for services to members of the military and veterans or their families."
The bill immediately ran into considerable opposition from many groups who realized that feeding the DV industry could never help the military or veterans, but would definitely hurt them. But Democrats seem never to have seen a tax, or fee, they didn't like, especially if it claims to fight "domestic violence." So the bill advanced. But any reference to helping military or veterans, the original rationale for why this tax was needed, was dropped from the final version. In the end it is clearly only a tax to feed the DV industry at the expense of marriages society should be most interested in preserving.
As finally passed the tax will add $20 to a marriage license and $10 to the filing fee of the 50% who marry and later divorce. These "fees" are expected to add a million dollars a year to state revenues and pay the salary and benefits of one new state bureaucrat. One might reasonably predict this bill will result in roughly 1,000 new DV court cases, i.e., broken homes and lives.
June 22, 2009 Thanks to Senate Bill 09-068, sponsored by state Senator John Morse, Democrat-Colorado Springs, and signed into law by Governor Bill Ritter, the cost of getting a marriage license will triple July 1, 2009, from $10 to $30. The additional money will go to the Colorado Domestic Abuse Program, meaning prospective brides and grooms are targeted to fund solutions to a problem that likely has nothing to do with their own lives.
A marriage is nothing other than a contract - written, spoken or merely understood - between two adults. No place understands this better than the state of Colorado, which recognizes a heterosexual couple as fully married if they simply choose to present themselves as married to their friends and the greater community.
Or, the couple may find a pastor, priest, rabbi, rimpoche, or other spiritual leaders to lead them through vows of marriage. While some third party providers of marriage services may require a state license, they are under no obligation to do so and can often be convinced to perform services without a license. The license does absolutely nothing to validate a marriage in Colorado that isn't accomplished by mutual vows of "I do."
Here are some of the rules: The license must be used within 30 days of issue; the fee is payable only in cash; the bride and groom must complete the application form, and at least one must appear at the clerk and recorder's office in person; if both parties appear in person, they must appear together; if one of the parties cannot appear in person, he or she must complete an affidavit and the signature must be notarized. That, vs. "I do" in the privacy of a home, in some other favorite place, or before friends and family gathered in a religious institution. Why would anyone do this? Is it fun to spend $30 for absolutely no reason?
Anyone who believes a marriage license serves some purpose should ask five or 10 couples who've been married for 10 years or more the following question: "When is the last time someone asked to see your marriage license, or when is the last time you actually used the license?"
States began issuing marriage licenses in the United States as a way to regulate interracial couples who wanted to wed. They are an outdated mode of distasteful state control that has evolved into the sale of a license for no purpose other than to levy a fee.
State government should have no role in a marriage, unless and until that marriage becomes the topic of a child custody and/or property dispute in need of courtroom resolution. In that unfortunate circumstance, the marriage license continues to play no role.
So, prospective newlyweds, show the state how you feel about an overnight tripling of a fee that targets only new loving couples to pay for a problem they didn't cause. Simply decline to buy a $30 marriage license, which has a value of zero.
For many years the Equal Justice Foundation has pointed out that under current laws a man has to be functionally insane to get a license and marry and a drooling idiot to sire a child. This bill by state senator John Morse simply reinforces that statement.
It might be a bit expensive to draw up a revocable trust that includes medical power of attorney, health care directives, a living will, last will and testament, property schedule, community property agreement, and etc. but that cost will be minuscule compared to what the couple will pay to go through "family" court after taking out a marriage license. And there is a 50% chance today that any marriage will end up with a divorce. Isn't it much more sensible to make provision for a possible friendly end to the relationship at the beginning as is standard practice with any contract?
Further, simply buying a marriage license doesn't save you the expense of most of the documents tabulated above. So save your $30 fee and stay out of family court by drawing up a contract to start with.
Love shouldn't blind man or woman to reality and if they have children they should be bound under contract to raise them together, whether they can live as man and wife or not. Child support cannot replace a father or a mother and the State acting in loco parentis is a societal disaster.