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<B>Andy Rooney</B> On Why Marriage Is In Big Trouble

The following is a weekly 60 Minutes commentary by CBS News Correspondent Andy Rooney.

It's hard to guess what the issues are going to be in an election year. Who would have thought a year ago, that we'd be arguing over gay marriages?

President Bush has his solution: "Today, I call upon the Congress to promptly pass and to send to the states for ratification an amendment to our constitution defining and protecting marriage as a union of a man and woman, as husband and wife."

I don't know about that. Most Americans disapprove of gay marriage, but if Congress gets into the marriage business, it better look into all marriages -- not just gay ones, because marriage is in big trouble.

More than half of all marriages in the United States are ending in divorce these days. In some states, it's even higher. In the year 2000, 71 percent of all married people in Oklahoma got divorced.

There are so many divorces that they make the wedding business look ridiculous: the organ music, the vow ''Til death do us part,' the announcement in the newspaper, the bridal gown.

Where are the divorce announcements in the paper? How come a woman getting divorced doesn't wear a gown and have a party with a cake? Where's the church - the minister, the priest - in a divorce?

So forget making gay weddings illegal, Mr. President. If you want to make marriage more stable, make divorce illegal. If people knew they couldn't get out of it, they'd be more careful getting into it.

A man who leaves his wife with kids to take care of, so she has to go on welfare, would be required to undergo an unpleasant operation to make sure it never happens again.

If prohibiting divorce is impractical, which I agree it probably is, at least make it harder for two people to get married in the first place. No one can get a driver's license or fly an airplane without taking a test. A man and a woman would have to take a test to prove that they knew how before they were given a license to marry. Some people should never be given a license -- especially in Oklahoma.

Another possibility would be to put a time limit on marriage. Two people wouldn't be married permanently; they'd get a permit good for maybe 5 or 10 years. At the end of that time, married couples would have to apply for an extension.

Just trying to help, Mr. President. Most of us like your idea of supporting marriage as an institution. The question is whether a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage is the best way to do it.

EDITORS NOTE: To further clarify the divorce statistics for Oklahoma, The Centers for Disease Control reports 15,571 marriages and 12,352 divorces in Oklahoma in the year 2000.

Written By Andy Rooney