Monday, October 18, 2010

Why does the Texas GOP want to rescind No-Fault Divorce?

The Texas GOP in releasing their 2010 State Republican Party Platform have raised considerable amount of controversy over their ultra-conservative positions on criminalizing gay marriage, regulating school teaching of alternate theories to evolution, banning pornography, and other issues.

Included in the Platform is also an "urging" that the Texas legislature rescind no-fault divorce laws stating "We believe in the sanctity of marriage and that the integrity of this institution should be protected at all levels of government." Not surprisingly, the Texas GOP has joined the Catholic Church here by claiming that no-fault divorce is an attack on the "sanctity of marriage."

The Catholic Church recently claimed that allowing no-fault divorce in New York would raise the divorce rates in New York. Interestingly, the divorce rates in New York, though low compared to all 50 states (ranking 33rd), are still higher than a state like Massachusetts where No-Fault Divorce has been the law for more than thirty years (3.4 per 1000 people per year in New York vs. 2.5 per 1000 people per year in Massachusetts according to StateMaster.com).

The disconnect in this argument stems from the faulty assumption, of both the Texas GOP and the Catholic Church, that making it harder to get divorced and protecting the sanctity of marriage is the same thing. But they are not the same thing. Protecting the sanctity of marriage should be about raising the quality of marriages, about educating people before they get married, and even about saving people from bad marriages. Does forcing a victim of domestic violence to go through a harder process to escape his/her abuser protect the sanctity of marriage or give marriage a bad name?

Making it harder for people to obtain divorces doesn't lower divorce rates, but it does increase domestic violence, crowd courts, and discourage mediation. How do any of these consequences protect the sanctity of marriage?

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