Exclusive: ‘Covenant Marriage’ in the Spotlight with Rep. Mike Johnson as New Speaker of the House

Washington, DC - October 25 : Newly elected House Speaker Rep. Mike Johnson (R-La.) take t
Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images

With Rep. Mike Johnson (R-LA) elected as the new Speaker of the House, his Christian values are already the subject of much discussion and sneering from the left-wing media.

Among his Christian-conservative viewpoints, including being staunchly pro-life and opposing the LGBTQ+ activist agenda,  Johnson’s particular kind of marriage has garnered a shower of media attention. The lawmaker and his wife Kelly entered into what is called a “covenant marriage” in 1999, an alternative type of marriage under Louisiana law that emphasizes marriage as a life-long commitment and limits the circumstances under which a couple may divorce.

“My wife and I both come from traditional Christian households,” Johnson told ABC in 2005. “My own parents are divorced. As anyone who goes through that knows, that was a traumatic thing for our whole family. I’m a big proponent of marriage and fidelity and all the things that go with it, and I’ve seen firsthand the devastation [divorce] can cause.”

Kelly Johnson told ABC that her covenant marriage “shows me that he wants it to be forever.” 

“I think that it would be a pretty big red flag if you asked your mate or your fiancé, ‘Let’s do a covenant marriage,’ and they said they don’t really want to do that,” she said. 

In a covenant marriage, both parties must agree that they intend the marriage will last for the rest of their lives, and they must receive pre-marital counseling before their wedding and marital counseling if they are considering divorce. Couples who have entered into a covenant marriage agreement may divorce in limited circumstances, including infidelity, physical or sexual abuse, a spouse committing a felony or using illegal substances, or if both spouses have been living separately for one or two years. 

WEST PALM BEACH, FL – FEBRUARY 14: A couple exchanges rings as they are wed during a group Valentine’s day wedding at the National Croquet Center on February 14, 2014 in West Palm Beach, Florida. Approximately 40 couples were married in a ceremony put on by the Palm Beach Country Clerk & Comptroller’s office. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Only three states in the United States have covenant marriage laws, making the arrangement uncommon. Louisiana, Johnson’s home state, was the first state to pass a covenant marriage law in 1997, followed by Arizona in 1998 and Arkansas in 2001.

During those years, U.S. lawmakers were focused on combating “No Fault Divorce,” rising divorce rates, and the fallout from families splitting apart of a massive scale. According to scholars writing for JSTOR Daily:

Divorce was seen as a driver of poverty as families struggled with the impact of missing breadwinners. While the social scientists were concerned with the negative impact of divorce on the wellbeing of children, religious leaders, particularly evangelicals, saw widespread divorce as an affront to Jesus’s teachings on the matter in Luke 16 and Mark 10.

Family Research Council President Tony Perkins, the author of the nation’s first covenant marriage law in Louisiana, told Breitbart News the law was intended to “strengthen and promote the institution of marriage by recognizing its importance to society.” 

“As government budgets have become bloated by the effort to address the cultural pathologies created by the demise of marriage, covenant marriage was an effort to go to the source of the problem,” Perkins said.  “Covenant marriage is voluntary.  To choose it, you need to have premarital counseling to give you the tools to succeed.  The idea is to break the cycle of divorce.”

“What was interesting in the initial numbers was that many young people from broken homes opted for covenant marriage. In an effort to slow down the path to divorce, counseling is required prior to a divorce,” he continued.

Researchers did find that while covenant marriage never comprised more than five percent of all marriages in those three states, “those who did choose the covenant option indeed proved less likely to divorce; they divorced at a rate of less than half that of their counterparts in conventional marriages.”

“But researchers attribute that number largely to self-selection, finding that the couples who considered the covenant option were more likely to remain married in any case, thanks to their greater adherence to religious and social values discouraging divorce,” scholars wrote.

Johnson is not the only lawmaker to enter into a covenant marriage. Former Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R), a Catholic, was an early adopter of covenant marriage: he and his wife Supriya entered into a covenant marriage in 1997. 

Katherine Hamilton is a political reporter for Breitbart News. You can follow her on X @thekat_hamilton.


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