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The covenant couples’ strong religiosity — especially among the wives — was a huge factor in their higher levels of marital quality and lower divorce rates. Also, covenant couples truly saw their marriages as important, both for themselves and the nation, she said.

“They are trying to turn back what they see as the culture of divorce. … They really feel they are pioneers or innovators, and they are engaging in the public dialogue about what marriage is through their own marriage.”

One would think there would be strong support for covenant marriage, but “[t]he fact is, covenant marriage has been opposed by progressives, conservatives, feminists, traditionalists and religious leaders, although for very different reasons,” Ms. Sanchez and her co-authors wrote.

As a result, about 2 percent of Louisiana couples have covenant marriages — and even fewer have them in Arizona and Arkansas — “so in terms of gross impact on state divorce rates, I say it’s fair to say it won’t have any,” Mr. Wright said.

Thus, after 11 years, covenant marriage is still in its infancy.

Yes, it has its moments. On Feb. 14, 2005, Arkansas’ then-Gov. Mike Huckabee and wife, Janet, publicly renewed their marriage with a covenant-marriage vow. Phil and Cindy Waugh maintain a Web site (www.covenant for the Covenant Marriage Movement. State lawmakers still offer covenant-marriage bills.

But unless far more couples choose this kind of marriage — which anyone can do by marrying in Louisiana, Arizona or Arkansas — it is unlikely to have the sweeping impact its authors envisioned.

Still, “for starting the conversation” about how marriage is changing in America and what can be done about it, “covenant marriage earns an A,” the study’s researchers wrote.

Cheryl Wetzstein’s On the Family column appears Tuesdays and Sundays. She can be reached at