I realize I’m running behind on the news. Having been work-related retreat for four days, and then catching up with the family upon my return left little time for blogging about much. But there are several marriage-related items that have flitted across my radar, and now seems like as good a time as any to catch up on them. What it boils down to is this: the religious right, having pretty much run out of steam on the gay marriage issues, is coming for heterosexuals next.
The married ones, that is. I don’t know what kind of twisted logic makes people work overtime to make sure that gay couples who want to be married can’t, and heterosexual couples have to stay married even if they don’t want to be married anymore, but that’s what they’re working on. And, of course, it’s in Virginia.
After its victory in last year’s fight over a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage in Virginia, the Family Foundation of Virginia announced Thursday that it will push to change the state’s divorce laws to make it more difficult for parents to end their marriage.
The Family Foundation, which opposes abortion and promotes socially conservative values, said it will lobby the General Assembly this year to amend the state’s long-standing no-fault divorce law, which essentially allows a husband or wife to terminate a marriage without cause.
The foundation is advocating “mutual consent divorce” for couples with children, which would require a husband and wife to agree to divorce before a marriage can be legally terminated, except in certain instances, such as abuse or cruelty. The proposed legislation would not affect childless couples.
“Right now, one spouse can unilaterally end [the marriage], and not only is their spouse unable to stop the divorce, their abandonment does not preclude them from having custody of their child,” said Victoria Cobb, president of the Family Foundation. “When we send a message that one can up and leave their family and have no consequence, the Old Dominion is encouraging divorce.”
Maybe I’m wrong (and I’m sure the Family Foundation would say that i am), but my experience is that if the relationship is over for one partner, it’s over, even if the other half of the couple doesn’t want it to be over. At least they’re making allowances for “abuse or cruelty,” so a battered spouse might be able to get a divorce even if the battering spouse opposes it.
As for the children, I suppose their theory is that children suffer more in a divorce than they do unhappy parents. And I suppose it doesn’t matter that the evidence doesn’t actually support that. As Stephanie Koontz points out in Marriage, a History: How Love Conquered Marriage:
…children in high-conflict marriage are often better off if they’re parents divorce than if they stay together. Children also suffer when exposed to constant and chronic low-level friction in a marriage, such as parents not talking to each other, being critical or moody, exhibiting jealousy, or being domineering.
A well functioning, continuously happily married two-parent family provides an optimal environment for children. But a well functioning marriage with two cooperating parents is not always what you get. When it’s not, divorce can be an escape hatch for the children as well as the adults. …it actually improves the well-being of 40 to 45 percent. It is not very helpful to give people hard-and-fast personal advice, far less to pass sweeping laws…
Of course, there also the reality that in some cases, kids who develop behavioral problems after a divorce got a head start on those problems while living in the middle of their parents’ “war zone” of a marriage. And that’s assuming, however, the happiness of any of the parties involved is the point, in the first place, when it really may just be that H.L. Mencken was right when he defined Puritanism as “the haunting fear that someone, somewhere may be happy.”
One wonders if, under the Virginia law, a cuckolded or otherwise betrayed spouse would have ground for divorce, even if the cheating spouse didn’t agree to it. (Does an affair count as cruelty?) Combine Virginia’s proposed law with recent events in Michigan, and you might not be able to divorce a cheating spouse, but you could put the adulterer away for life.
In a ruling sure to make philandering spouses squirm, Michigan’s second-highest court says that anyone involved in an extramarital fling can be prosecuted for first-degree criminal sexual conduct, a felony punishable by up to life in prison.
“We cannot help but question whether the Legislature actually intended the result we reach here today,” Judge William Murphy wrote in November for a unanimous Court of Appeals panel, “but we are curtailed by the language of the statute from reaching any other conclusion.”
“Technically,” he added, “any time a person engages in sexual penetration in an adulterous relationship, he or she is guilty of CSC I,” the most serious sexual assault charge in Michigan’s criminal code.
No one expects prosecutors to declare open season on cheating spouses. The ruling is especially awkward for Attorney General Mike Cox, whose office triggered it by successfully appealing a lower court’s decision to drop CSC charges against a Charlevoix defendant. In November 2005, Cox confessed to an adulterous relationship.
I don’t expect they will declare open seasons on cheating spouses. Not heterosexuals anyway. But I fully expect that the law, and this particular application of it, will be used against a gay or lesbian person if at all possible. Because as heterosexuals might be next on the right wing’s hit list, but we’re still in their sites, and if they think they have a shot at us, they’ll take it.
Think about it. A married man or woman has an affair with someone of the same-sex. The affair, being adultery, is a felony. The sexual activity of the adulterous pair thus amounts to criminal sexual conduct. Which means that two men or women can be arrested and imprisoned for having sex with each other. And if they can be, they will be eventually. And if you define adultery as “sexual intercourse between individuals who aren’t married to each other,” then the law is definitely applicable to same-sex couples, even if neither of them is married to anyone else, because they can’t be married to each other.
(Note, this doesn’t quite add up to outlawing sodomy, since the acts themselves can still be legally performed by any married — thus, by definition, heterosexual — couple. And we’ve already established that heterosexuals have anal sex too.)
We can’t be married, but we can still be divorced.
A gay couple may have been mistaken in thinking they were legally married, but they still have to honor the terms of their separation agreement, which is the equivalent of any other type of contract, a judge in New York City has ruled.
The couple, Steven Green, 41, a real estate developer, and David Gonzalez, 29, now a lawyer but a student at the time they met, began living together in 2001, a decision last week in State Supreme Court in Manhattan indicated.
They shared Mr. Green’s house in Westchester County and a pied-à-terre on Central Park South, according to the court papers and to Mr. Green, who responded to questions about the case by e-mail. Mr. Green, who said he also owns a home on Nantucket, produces independent films and runs “a small charter airline,” was the wealthier of the two men, and showered his partner with gifts, including a ski house and two cars, according to court papers.
Welcome to the world ordered as the religious right would apparently have it. Put it all together and this is what you get: heterosexuals can get married but not divorced, gay people can get divorced but not married, but heterosexuals who stray and gay people who have sex at all are criminals.
Basically, they get two fornicators for the price of one. And nobody’s happy.