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May 18, 2004

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» Various marriage equality links from Alas, a Blog
Good article by Adam Haslett in The New Yorker. The article covers a lot of topics, but here's my favorite bit: What effect will allowing men to marry men and women to marry women have on our peculiarly modern venture... [Read More]

» Various marriage equality links from Alas, a Blog
Good article by Adam Haslett in The New Yorker. The article covers a lot of topics, but here's my favorite bit: What effect will allowing men to marry men and women to marry women have on our peculiarly modern venture... [Read More]

Comments

Marty

Whether marriage is a lifetime commitment, or just a temporary arrangement seems to me to be a much bigger difference in the definition of marriage than viewing one's spouse as a human being without reference to gender.

We do agree on that aspect. I would go a bit further however and say that SSM could/would never have happened were it not for the damage that no-fault divorce has already inflicted on the institution. Of course, i have already argued that both are part-and-parcel with the feminist agenda to destroy notions of "family", "gender" and ultimately "private property" itself.

I would be much less opposed to same-sex marriage if they were held to the same high standard of "Til Death Do Us Part" that i expect from all responsible adults who make a solemn vow before God and Man.

Sadly, too many are neither adult, nor responsible, and these standards are being continuously lowered by our culture of "It aint none of your business if i do!"

A nice little connumdrum we can thank the radical lesbian feminists for...

Galois

Yes I saw your post that says marriage is dead. If that's your view then there can't be any harm in trying same-sex marriage to resuscitate it.

I'm all for holding all marriages to the same standards. Certainly the law will. Who knows, maybe a concern over gays living up to their obligations will lead people to take their own obligations more seriously and to enforce them?

When you say "too many" is that too many gays, too many straights, or just too many people in general?

lucia

I'm astonished to read the suggestion that feminists are universally plotting to destroy private property! I'm a feminist, and I'm all for private property. Of course, I've never liked the idea that *I* would be someone's property.

Zip

Marty: I would be much less opposed to same-sex marriage if they were held to the same high standard of "Til Death Do Us Part" that i expect from all responsible adults who make a solemn vow before God and Man.

What makes you think that same-sex couples won't hold themselves to the "same high standard" that opposite sex couples are (obviously not) being held to?

All couples should be held to the same standards. Right now, society has been telling people that marriage and standards don't matter, regardless of whether you're gay or straight. Obviously the solution to this problem, which has existed since before same-sex marriage was on the table, is to breed a society that has a culture of taking marriage seriously.

Writing dozens of laws and amending every constitution in the world to ban same-sex marriage isn't going to fix the societal problem of people - gay or straight - not taking marriage seriously.

If anything, it will degrade marriage further.

Anti-gay activists have been telling gays for years now that they and their children don't need marriage and its protections for their families. Well, guess what? That message is resonating with young straight people too.

Galois

Lucia, the problem is once you allow married women to own property you've practically destroyed the concept of private property.

Of course allowing married women to own property also destroys gender and of course the institution of marriage itself. Lesbian feminist E.J. Graff (I don't know if she's radical) collects some responses people had to proposed changes in the law that would allow married women to own property. From her book, What Is Marriage For?:


One 1844 New York legislative committee insisted that allowing married women to control their own property would lead to "infidelity in the marriage bed, a high rate of divorce, and increased female criminality," while turning marriage from "it's high and holy purposes" into something arranged for "convenience and sensuality."...The Times of London harrumphed that reform would "abolish families in the old sense"...A New York legislator pleaded with his fellows to remember "the complexity and fragility of marriage as a social institution...If any single thing should remain untouched by the hand of the reformer, it was the sacred institution of marriage...[which] was about to be destroyed in one thoughtles blow that might produce change in all phases of domestic life." A British Parliamentarian announced that the proposed law was "contrary not only to the law of England, but to the law of God." The British Saturday Review wrote that such proposals "set at defiance the experience of every country in Christendom and the common sense of mankind" and that "there is besides a smack of selfish independence about it which rather jars with poetical notions of wedlock"

Let's hear it for radical lesbian feminism: "Trying to destroy family, gender, and private property since 1844"

lucia

Yes.... well.. and obviously, treating women as property did mean SSM made no sense. After all, if two men married, who would own whom?

Jake Squid

I don't know how many of you have gone through a divorce, but let me lay out some of my experiences and why no-fault divorce is, in my mind, a good thing.

I met my first wife when I was 20. I had never really dated (a girlfriend for 6 weeks once in highschool) and was terribly inexperienced with relationships. Our serious relationship began when she moved in with me one day out of the blue. Three months later she asked me to marry her and I said yes, being in the smitten, dizzying, floating stage of infatuation. As our first year progressed, I started to notice that she was a very unhappy person with some serious problems. But I had made a commitment and was sure that we would be able to make it work. As the date of our wedding drew closer things got worse. But I was determined to stick it out, in no small part because of the embarrasment calling off our wedding would cause and the shame of not being able to follow up on the commitment that I had made when I accepted her proposal.

We got married in June of 1989. In October of that year one of my best friends died of cancer. At his funeral I met a group of people from high school that I hadn't seen in years. One of them had been one of my 2 best friends in school. We started spending more time with him. Then my wife had an affair with him. When I found out she was very apologetic and we managed to move on.

Four years later we had moved way out to the boondocks and things, if not great, were pretty steady. Then she had an affair with a guy she met at an art class at a community college. She left me and moved in with him. I moved in with friends. I tried for months to get back together with her and eventually we did. I told her in no uncertain terms that if she ever did that again that it would be over between us.

Four years later, after a move to the northwest, we went back east for my sister's wedding. I could only stay for a week, but my wife stayed an extra week so that she could go visit her family. When she arrived back home I could tell that something was going on. Sure enough she had started another affair. I demanded a divorce.

We agreed to the division of property very quickly and found a lawyer for her. Thank everything that we had not had children. I did not have a lawyer. We filed for divorce. A year later the divorce was finalized. Why did it take a year? It was a combination of things. My ex taking off for 3 months didn't help. The judge taking extra time to make sure that the division of property was fair to her was another reason. But mostly because that is how long it took to work its way through the process.

I was emotionally torn up during most of that time. I was a failure, unable to live up to my commitments. I can only imagine how much worse it could have been had I been forced to sue for divorce.

Why did my marriage fail? In large part because of my inexperience w/ dating and relationships. I didn't have any basis on which to be able to realize that she was not a good person for me to be with. I was only 20 when I met her, 21 when I got married and had never really dated before. My first wife was a troubled woman who had left home at 15, never completed high school, who had emotional problems (probably resulting from being sexually abused as a child). Whose fault was the failure of our marriage? Should we have been forced to remain legally and financially bound for the rest of our lives? Who would that have benefitted? How would society have profited from continuing this marriage?

When I agreed to get married I made a commitment to stay with her for my entire life. I did my best to honor that commitment even when it became clear that it was a huge mistake. I tried for close to 10 years and finally admitted my failure. This is probably a much more typical experience than the (purported) stories of people who marry and divorce because it's easy.

In my view, this really is the reason that no-fault divorce exists. The failure of my marriage was not one that should have required me to sue for divorce, to convince a judge, in court, that she was a bad person. To cost a lot more, both financially and emotionally, to end a disastrous marriage benefits nobody. When I entered into marriage the thought that I could easily divorce was never a factor in my decision. Maybe it is for some people, but I haven't met them yet.

Maybe I haven't put this as clearly as I'd like. Perhaps I'll come back after reviewing this and clarify anything that needs it.

Galois

You make a good point Jake and I probably should have emphasized that I did not mean my post to be an endorsement of any particular position on divorce laws. My understanding is that there are other reasons for no-fault divorce as well. The court was becoming a mockery with people forced to "create" evidence of an affair. I wrote a little while back about the Cole Porter musical Gay Divorce which dealt with that situation. So there are certainly reasons for no-fault divorce, and they could very well outweigh the reasons against it.

My point was that with no-fault divorce I can see some reasons against it that should be considered on the scale. I do see how changing the rules regarding what is required for a divorce has impacts on all marriages. Those arguments do not carry over to same-sex marriage, though.

One point of clarification, I do not believe most people enter marriage with the thought of easy divorce (is divorce really ever easy?). I do believe that some people might enter marriage with the thought that the marriage could end in divorce. And I think that awareness has an effect on the marriage itself. I also believe that there could be situations where a couple today might divorce instead of remain married, and where that decision might not be the best for the children involved. (There are other issues involved like shouldn't the parents' opinion about what is best for their children matter a great deal more than mine.) I can't imagine a similar situation where a same-sex couple might marry instead of cohabit, and the decision to marry would not be in the child's best interests.

Ampersand

Great post, Gabriel. (And the post on "emotional blackmail" was terrific, as well).

Regarding Jake's post, the evidence is mixed regarding whether or not no-fault divorce laws have actually led to an increase in divorce over the long term. Some studies suggest that it led to an initial bump in divorces, as people who otherwise might have waited a year or two for a fault-divorce got a no-fault divorce immediately, but did not change the long-term divorce trend.

If so, that makes sense to me. As Jake said, the primary reason people decide to get a divorce isn't how easy or hard the divorce laws are. (Except, I suppose, in countries in which divorce is entirely illegal).

Chris B.

Regarding Jake's, Gabriel's, and Ampersand's comments... Maybe I'm out of it (I mean, I know I am, but maybe I'm out of it on this issue too), but I don't see how Jake's story has very much to do with *no-fault* divorce.

I can think of at least three types of divorce, in order of strictness: First, there's unilateral divorce for cause, where the aggrieved party divorces a spouse for (typically) adultery or abuse. Second, there's divorce by mutual consent. Third, there's unilateral divorce on demand - this is what I understand as "no-fault divorce".

Jake's case clearly qualifies as divorce for cause, seeing that his wife committed adultery with at least 3 different men. Practically any society that allowed divorce at all would allow Jake out of his marriage.

The "Gay Divorce" scenario (that's with an acute accent on the E, isn't it?), where estranged spouses conspire to fake evidence of adultery, really only applies in societies that permit divorce for cause but not divorce by mutual consent. The latter is still a long way from unilateral divorce on demand. Divorce on demand, for example, is what allows a business executive to replace his starter wife with a glamourous and delectable trophy wife. Or a husband to dump his wife when her looks go. Or a wife to leave a marriage because of the ugly mess created by her own infidelity. Viewed more abstractly, it tends (in a way the other two types don't) to reduce marriage to a pseudo-contract with merely symbolic force.

Obviously, I'm doubtful that no-fault divorce (if I've defined it correctly) is preferable to some of the more restrictive divorce regimes. However, it's an issue I'd be very interested in hearing discussed.

lucia

I don't want to speak for Jake, but what I thought he means is this: Even though he, as the aggrieved party, could have sought a fault based the divorce, and he would have been granted the divorce, he was glad his state permitted no fault divorce. It spared him the need to "trash" his wife in court.

My guess is that even if the "trashing" is nothing more than stating she committed adultery, and having her agree, being forced to do so can be hard on the innocent party. Everyone is aware that, ultimately, divorce documents are public-- unless sealed. It sounds like Jake was already devastated, and although he didn't say so, he probably still at least sort of loved his wife, despite deciding he needed a divorce.

Had Jake lived in Illinois, he would not have been able to apply for the no fault divorce when he learned of any of his wife's infidelities. He could either file for divorce on the grounds of adultery, or he would have been able to separate for 2 year and then file for irreconcilable differences. (I'm not sure of the term-- but if you don't specify a fault, you need to separate for 2 years before filing. His divorce would then probably have taken another year.)

I can see where, given the emotional circumstance surrounding marriage and divorce, the no fault provision was beneficial to Jake. The downside is that people can divorce for the reasons described by Chris B.

Galois

Jake's situation was one where he obtained a "no fault" divorce instead of a "fault" divorce. NOLO has this handy FAQ on the subject. (It has a footnote for Illinois that the separation can be just six months if both parties agree).

Just because grounds exists for a fault based divorce does not mean that one would want to seek that course instead of no fault as Jake's personal case illustrates. I believe his point was that either way he would have obtained the divorce, but that the "no fault" grounds causes had less emtional and financial costs. In his case there was mutual consent, in other cases ther might not be.

From the NOLO chart it seems that Ohio is the only state that allows one party to contest a no fault divorce. So what you refer to as divorce on demand is no fault divorce (although separation for a time period is often required), but the mutual consent also falls under no fault divorce.

As for the "Gay Divorce"/"Gay Divorcee" scenario and how it should be pronounced see this post. (It's pronounced differently only if there is an extra "e" referring to the person as opposed to the divorce itself)

Jake Squid

Yes, my point was that the availability of no-fault divorce in my state cost me ex & myself much less both financially and emotionally than if I had been forced to sue for divorce for cause. For one thing, we only needed one lawyer. That is a HUGE financial saving. For another thing, having to appear in court and enumerate the bad things my ex-wife had done could only have been emotionally harmful to both of us. Also the time that it took was much less than the time it would have taken had I had to sue. And it was emotionally very important to be able to end things and never have to deal with her again. Once I never had to see or speak to her again a huge amount of stress, worry and depression was lifted from me. I believe that by being permitted to do a no-fault divorce that our community was spared a small but significant financial cost (court time, judges time, etc.).

I don't see the "trophy wife" or "looks" issues as contributing greatly to divorce. I'm not saying that it never happens, I'm just saying that I think that those sorts of cases are statistically insignificant.

lucia

Footenote says six months? My husband will be happy to know I don't have an encyclopedic knowledged of the Illinois divorce code! ;-)

About the idea of the "trophy wife", I think the stereotype is some guy who makes a lot of money, dumps his wife for younger eye candy -- sort of like Trump dumping Ivana for Marla Maples. My impression is that even under fault grounds, these guys generally could get divorces. They just trotted right out, installed their girlfriends in hotel rooms one floor below their wives and carried on. Eventually, the wife would file for divorce. What the fault based divorce did was give the wife the option of staying married to a lout who treated her badly. As long as the wife provided no grounds, the lout couldn't divorce her.

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