Monday, March 16, 2009

The Reluctant Activist: Marriage Equality Has Become the Scapegoat for Divorce

This week, TNG contributor Ed exposes divorce, not marriage quality, as the greatest threat to so-called "traditional" marriage.

Arguments against traditional marriage won't defuse or eliminate the perceived threat homosexuality poses to the institution. We have to expose and talk about the real threat to marriage, which is divorce.

A while back, one of my mentors taught me that when you tell someone "no," you need to be prepared to present alternatives. She said, "When the only thing you have to offer is "no" you render yourself useless. You have no power, but if you can say no, explain your position, offer a better alternative, and back it up, then you are bringing something to the table with which you can bargain."

I would later learn that when facing an adversary in the "market place of public opinion," it's not the best plan that always wins, it is frequently the one that is easiest to explain. The perfect example is marriage equality. The position being espoused by the supporters of "traditional marriage," is contrived at best but is probably best explained as a craven, immoral exercise demonstrating a willingness to use religion to achieve political objectives. But, it's easy to explain. Saying you support marriage is like saying you like babies or puppies or kitties. What cold-hearted bastard is going to launch a campaign against babies and puppies? And even if that person has a good reason, like he or she is deathly allergic to smiling, cooing babies and goes into anaphylactic shock around them, they dare not say it. If they did, the stone-throwing, pitchfork-wielding, torch-waving, toothless villagers would be knocking at their castle door within the hour.

When supporters of marriage equality hurl around statistics like marriage fails more than 50 percent of the time, it's like sending the angry masses and a hand written invitation to storm our castle gate. Heterosexuals don't enjoy getting divorced. Well, most of the time. My mom was thrilled as all hell when she divorced my dad, as was I, but for all the TNG readers out there who are products of divorce, think about what a horrible experience it was. Although the occurrences of divorces has increased, I am sure it still has the same devastating impact on children and even one or both of the parents.

So, I have been thinking (this is the part where everyone collectively says, "Uh Oh!). If we are going to say no to the prevailing sentiment that "traditional marriage" ought to be reserved to a man and a woman, I think we should wage a campaign against the one thing that poses the greatest, real and immediate threat to traditional marriage in the U.S.: Divorce.


Some supporters of traditional marriage are going to be belligerent and resist efforts to work with them forcing us to call bullshit on them. Traditional marriage has a whole host of problems that have nothing to do with marriage equality. Show us how marriage equality is a threat to heterosexual marriages. Where is the proof? Show us one single so-called traditional marriage that ended because a person said, "Hey honey, I know we are happy and all that, but I want out of our traditional marriage because guys are marrying guys and women are marrying women. I'm leaving. I'll catch you and the kids on the flip side." Show us the court papers where marriage equality is listed as the cause for one single divorce. If they can't, then they should join the campaign to protect traditional marriage by decreasing divorces.

In order to defeat your enemy, you must know how they think (I'm being generous). The arguments offered by the other side in favor of traditional marriage include: marriage saves women from promiscuity and being treated like sex objects; marriage harnesses men's natural aggression and need for sex; it will prevent the slippery slope that will result in adults marrying children and animals and legalize polygamy; it's better for children; and, the grand dame, marriage equality will lead to the downfall of Western Civilization. One thing that continues to confuse me is that the right wingers claim to be Christians and defenders of freedom and Western Civilization, but they are constantly whining that Christianity and life as they know it is under attack. I feel sorry for them. It is sad that their faith is so flimsy that the mere suggestion of changes in social policy has them terrified their relationships with God won't survive. Christians used to be thrown to the lions if they did not renounce their faith, but I get the feeling some of these modern day right wingers would tell Jesus to go suck an egg if you threatened to put them in the same room with Paris Hilton's chihuahua.

If supporters of traditional marriage want to protect it, they should go after divorce, and I have a few policy suggestions that will decrease the divorce rate:

  1. Eliminate no fault divorce. If people are going to get a divorce they better have a damn good reason.
  2. Eliminate infidelity as a reason for divorce. Instead of divorce, married couples will have to duke it out in civil court. One spouse can sue the other and receive financial compensation for any substantiated extramarital sexual activity that has not been agreed to in writing by the couple.
  3. Couples will be required to sign a marriage contract. Each one has a minimum expiration date of at least 40 years. If individuals choose and complete a contract that is 50 years or longer, they will receive an increase in their Social Security checks after retirement. State governments will view early withdrawal as a breach of contract, punishable by a minimum fine of $50,000 per partner, and they will have to serve out the rest of the contract in prison.
  4. Any divorces will result in the partners publicly swearing their eternal souls to the service of Satan, aka "The Prince of Darkness," because a divorce is a violation of a sacred, oral agreement with our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, through whom salvation is made possible.
Seriously though, the following is a list of policies that I think supporters of traditional marriage would readily adopt. If the existence of Western Civilization hangs in the balance, then they need to step up their game. Trying to kill marriage equality isn't going to cut it, but fear not my unprincipled brethren. I have real ideas to help you accomplish your goals, and pay close attention. At the end of the day, none of the silliness you have put forward in opposition to marriage equality will actually protect marriage from divorce, but most of these will:
  • Eliminate no-fault divorces.
  • Make marriage counseling tax deductible.
  • Divorces will only be granted once couples have completed 52 (one a week) sessions of counseling.
  • Automatic paternity tests if a child is involved.
  • Marriage counseling prior to marriage must be completed before a marriage license will be issued.
  • Both individuals must complete a polygraph test in which they answer questions regarding moral and spiritual beliefs, having children, opinions about infidelity, money management, credit scores, domestic violence, anger management, and any number of potentially revealing questions that could one day lead to divorce.
  • Both must submit to criminal background checks.
  • Couples must undergo a full physical workup that includes fertility tests, drug tests, tests to identify precursors for heart, liver, and kidney diseases and diabetes.
  • Couples must undergo an IQ test to determine if they are intellectually compatible.
  • Couples must complete a financial disclosure form revealing all personal assets and debt.
  • Couples must fill out a form attesting to whether or not they are a Baby Momma/Daddy or have a/any Baby/ies Momma/s or Daddy/ies.
  • Every individual is only allowed one divorce in their lifetime in accordance with scripture.
  • Divorces will be limited to cases involving domestic violence or in which one or both spouses are involved in activities that present an immediate and consistent danger to the safety of other family members.
  • The "Gingrich Rule"--No one will be allowed to divorce a sick and/or dying spouse.
  • On second thought, maybe the ideas on the first list aren't all that absurd.
If everyone of these commonsense protections were to be enacted in every state that opposes marriage quality, then I would be willing to fore go my right to marry my partner. I will throw my entire support behind their efforts to lower divorce rates by both properly screening couples for compatibility, honesty, drug use and past criminal activity prior to entering the marriage and making it more difficult for couples to get out after they say "I do." Now let's get out there and get this stuff on state ballots. We know these ideas will pass in at least 40 states, because bans on marriage equality and constitutional amendments defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman have already passed in at least 40 states. The message has been sent, and it was loud and clear.

So, if the advocates of "traditional" marriage are serious about protecting the institution, then protect it from divorce. Otherwise leave us alone, and shut the fuck up.


j anthony said...

Does this post end with the sentence about stone throwing toothless villagers? The 'Read More' link doesn't take me anywhere.

The posting seems truncated in some way.

Michael said...

Hey, J Anthony. I think I fixed the problem... There's more.

Emily said...

As someone going through a divorce I got into at a young age (before concluding I was gay), if you were a politician, I certainly would not support you and your "divorce rules" (even if they were written in good fun). That said, you're certainly right that those who are against marriage equality are using ridiculous excuses to deem this discrimination acceptable, but then again, those who listen and support them more than likely don't agree with homosexuality in the first place. So, until those in power in this country man up and say "Our laws will not support discrimination, even if some (or even a majority, if that's the case) do because it is immoral and against our constitution," we will continue to be discriminated against. That's the bottom line. We can only do so much when it comes to fighting the ethics battle against extreme social conservatives. Also, when it comes to "traditional" marriage, those who fight for traditional marriages more than likely believe in traditional gender roles in the home. That being said, they probably also don't agree with the feminist movement and there probably isn't much equality in their marriages, either. These people live in a colonial mindset and don't like change. What do you do to change the minds of people who are against change in the first place? So either we do the impossible and change the minds of people who won't change, or we . . . you know . . . lobby congress to write discrimination out of our laws.

J. Clarence said...

Dealing with Divorce is just being retroactive. If social conservatives really want to focus on the family, I think they should start pursuing policies that would address that. For example preventing infertile people from getting married and enjoying the tax benefits, which they argue are just there for families. I would mandate that married couple have a child within a certain time frame or else they are in effect Tax Credit Queens.

Joking aside though. Social conservatives say that the few people who straw from the path are better than making it a bigger tent.