- Associated Press - Sunday, December 20, 2015

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - A Republican state senator in Oklahoma City is proposing to end funding for the state’s Marriage Initiative, which was approved in 1999 as a way to reduce the divorce rate in Oklahoma and enhance family stability.

Sen. Kyle Loveless has filed a bill calling for the state Department of Human Services to end all functions related to the Marriage Initiative, including advertising. The funding would be used instead for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Program.

More than $74 million has been appropriated for the Marriage Initiative since its inception, including $6.77 million for the 2015 fiscal year.

“I believe strong marriages are the backbone of strong families, but I don’t think the Oklahoma Marriage Initiative makes sense,” Loveless told the Tulsa World (https://bit.ly/1kaJ5sda0 ). “The data just doesn’t back up their claim of helping Oklahoma families.”

Plenty of services are available in the faith community, and initiative’s services duplicate those efforts, Loveless said.

“As a conservative, I believe we should be focusing our efforts on limiting government’s role in our lives, not welcoming it into our most intimate relationships,” Loveless said.

DHS spokeswoman Sheree Powell said the agency did not request the legislation and that its filing comes as a surprise.

Kendy Cox, director of community-based training services for the initiative, said the services are primarily aimed to address the needs of families who receive services from agencies such as DHS.

“Couples who have children with disabilities, foster and adoptive parents, financially vulnerable new parents, incarcerated individuals and TANF clients,” Cox said. “We also have programs for engaged couples, fathers, couples co-parenting after divorce, and youth in high school.”

The 2016 legislative session begins Feb. 1.

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Information from: Tulsa World, https://www.tulsaworld.com

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