The Truth-O-Meter Says:

"Webster sponsored a bill to create a form of marriage that would trap women in abusive relationships."

Alan Grayson on Wednesday, October 6th, 2010 in a TV ad.

Alan Grayson tones down rhetoric, but not attacks in new ad targeting Dan Webster

U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson is continuing his pointed attacks against Republican opponent Daniel Webster, and Webster's stance on women's issues.

Only this time, he's ditching the lines about religious fanaticism and the comparisons to the Taliban.

Grayson, a Democrat from Orlando, caught flak for airing an ad that compared Webster's beliefs to those of the Taliban, and for distorting Webster's words in a speech Webster gave to a Christian group. Grayson played clips in a 30-second ad called "Taliban Dan Webster" that showed Webster saying wives should submit to their husbands. But an unedited clip of the speech showed that Webster was in fact telling husbands to love their wives. The distortion, which earned a False rating from PolitiFact Florida, gave Webster's campaign national attention (including tweets of support from Sarah Palin) and helped him raise more than $100,000 in 48 hours, his campaign said.

In response, Grayson released a toned-down version of the "Taliban Dan" ad on Oct. 6, 2010, called "The Facts." Gone are the terrorists holding machine guns, the people burning American flags and the women wearing burqas. Also gone are references to religious fanaticism, Iran and the Bible.

(Gone, too, we found, is the "Taliban Dan Webster" ad from Grayson's YouTube website. The video is now marked private.) Here's a transcript of the new ad:

Daniel Webster's Washington backers are attacking Alan Grayson on women's issues. The facts on Webster's record:

Fact: Webster sponsored a bill to create a form of marriage that would trap women in abusive relationships.

Fact: Webster is an advocate for a group that teaches that mothers should not work outside the home.

Fact: Webster would force victims of rape and incest to bear their attacker's child.

Those are the facts. Don't let Daniel Webster make the laws we will have to live with.

In another item, we're analyzing the claim that Webster is an advocate for a group that teaches that mothers should not work outside the home.

In this fact check, we'll focus on the first "Fact" -- that Webster sponsored a bill to create a form of marriage that would trap women in abusive relationships. It's a slightly different take on a claim in the first ad when Grayson claimed that Webster "wants to make divorce illegal," even for abused women.

Both claims track back to a piece of legislation Webster introduced as a member of the state House in 1990.

That year, Webster authored HB 1585, a bill that "creates a form of marriage known as 'covenant marriage,' which may be dissolved only on grounds of adultery."

Florida law then and now allows married couples to divorce if a court finds that the marriage is "irretrievably broken." It's a common standard throughout the country, often called no-fault divorce. The term can be interpreted broadly and critics say the standard of proof makes divorce too easy.

Webster's legislation sought to make getting a divorce more difficult, at least for couples that voluntarily entered the covenant marriage.

Here's what he proposed. Men and women would have the option on their application for a marriage license to elect a covenant marriage. Under terms of the covenant marriage agreement, the husband- and wife-to-be would have to have their parents' permission and attend premarital counseling by a member of the clergy or a marriage counselor before proceeding. As part of their marriage license, the husband and wife would then have to sign notarized documents declaring:

"I, (insert name), do hereby declare my intent to enter in Covenant Marriage. I do so with the full understanding that a Covenant Marriage may not be dissolved except by reason of adultery. I have attended premarital counseling in good faith and understand my responsibilities to the marriage. I promise to seek counsel in times of trouble. I believe that I have chosen my life-mate wisely and have disclosed to him or her all facts that may adversely affect his or her decision to enter in this covenant with me."

Once a couple agreed to a covenant marriage, the only way they could get a divorce is for adultery. That means physical or sexual abuse was not grounds for a divorce.

Webster's legislation went nowhere in Florida -- Democrats controlled the state House in 1990, and the bill never came up for a vote -- but it did help launch the movement for covenant marriage nationwide.

Three states -- Louisiana, Arkansas and Arizona -- adopted a version of Webster's law, though the laws on the books in those states were all less restrictive than what Webster proposed in Florida, said Alan J. Hawkins, a professor of Family Life at Brigham Young University and an expert on covenant marriage.

In his first ad, "Taliban Dan Webster," Grayson said that Webster "wants to make divorce illegal," even for abused women.

But as our research proves, Webster's bill wouldn't make all divorce illegal. Rather it would make divorce more difficult, but not impossible, for couples who chose to form a covenant marriage. Even couples who chose Webster's form of covenant marriage had a small window out for adultery. We rated Grayson's original claim Half True.

It appears the Grayson campaign listened.

In his new ad, "The Facts," Grayson says "Webster sponsored a bill to create a form of marriage that would trap women in abusive relationships."

In 1990, Webster sponsored HB 1585, which would create a new form of marriage called covenant marriage. If women agreed to form a covenant marriage, they would not be allowed to divorce because of physical or sexual abuse.

The only out under Webster's legislation was adultery.

We rate this updated claim True.

About this statement:

Published: Wednesday, October 6th, 2010 at 5:58 p.m.

Subjects: Marriage, Message Machine 2010, Women


Alan Grayon campaign, "The Facts," Oct. 6, 2010

Alan Grayson campaign, "Taliban Dan Webster," Sept. 25, 2010

Alan Grayson campaign, e-mail interview with Sam Drzymala, Sept. 27, 2010

Daniel Webster campaign, e-mail interview with Brian Graham, Sept. 27, 2010

HB 1585, 1990

Florida statutes dealing with the dissolution of marriage, accessed Sept. 28, 2010

E-mail interview with Alan J. Hawkins, Brigham Young University, Sept. 27, 2010

Interview with Deb McGriff, Capitol Branch Library, Sept. 27, 2010

E-mail interview with John W. Senner, Branch Chief Health Statistics Branch, Arkansas Department of Health, Sept. 27, 2010

National Healthy Marriage Resource Center, "Covenant Marriage: A Fact Sheet," accessed Sept. 27, 2010

Arizona Supreme Court, "Covenant Marriage in Arizona," accessed Sept. 28, 2010

"New Louisiana Covenant Marriage Law", accessed Sept. 28, 2010

Arkansas, "Covenant Marriage Act of 2001," accessed Sept. 28, 2010

Written by: Louis Jacobson, Aaron Sharockman
Researched by: Louis Jacobson, Aaron Sharockman
Edited by: John Bartosek

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