Bush proposal shines spotlight on Oklahoma Marriage Initiative

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK: The Oklahoma Marriage Initiative is facing intense scrutiny as Congress debates a bill that would allocate $300 million a year for states to start their own programs.

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK: The Oklahoma Marriage Initiative is facing intense scrutiny as Congress debates a bill that would allocate $300 million a year for states to start their own programs.

In February, President Bush proposed a plan to promote marriage, particularly among welfare recipients and low-income communities. If approved, states would be able to apply for grants to launch their own marriage promotional programs.

But in Oklahoma, the idea is nothing new. The program was launched three years ago, and local PR firm Public Strategies has managed it since its start. Major supporters include Gov. Frank Keating (R) and his wife Cathy, who have hosted many conferences on the subject.

Since the idea of governments promoting marriage became national news, Mary Myrick, president of Public Strategies and project manager of the initiative, has found herself in the middle of a debate.

"It's beyond anyone's imagination that it could be so significant,

said Myrick. "We're fielding calls from all over the US.

The New York Times, PBS, AP, and two of the three main morning news shows have all run stories on the initiative.

Critics say government should not involve itself in marriage. Myrick answers that criticism by pointing out that since government is involved in issuing marriage licenses, and in the court proceedings that end marriages, it is already part of the process.

The project has included extensive research and surveys of Oklahoma households, as well as in neighboring states. The results will be available in June.

The state plans to develop services for residents, and to implement workshops where couples can learn marriage skills.

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