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Divorce Ban Protects Marriage, Like It or Not

by Amelia Timbers, published

 In a tart response to the Proposition 8 controversy, writer and web manager John Marcotte has made a tongue in cheek effort to encourage Californians in taking all measures to protect marriage, including outlawing divorce in California. He is currently gathering signatures outside of California's Walmarts, hoping that the same logic of protecting marriage will extend to support his initiative. While it is unclear whether Mr. Marcotte’s efforts are serious in nature, Californians have to approve the measure (assuming it makes the ballot) to maintain the logic behind their vote to outlaw gay marriage.

 There are two arguments against gay marriage. One is religious and the other is social. The religious motive is summarized by saying that some participants of some religions believe that God prohibits gay activity overall (let alone marriage), and then others believe that their founding documents, like The Bible, specifically limit marriage to heterosexual couples. While these arguments may certainly be important in the minds of some voters, they cannot be a policy consideration if California wants to continue to separate church and state. Indeed, the Church of Latter Day Saints and an array of other faith-based organizations that provided the fiscal support for the Prop 8 campaign likely violated IRS rules limiting political activity in tax-exempt charitable organizations. The second argument against gay marriage is social, that homosexual couples should not be married, as a matter of policy. Supporters of this position typically volunteer junk data on the weakness of homosexual marriages, that children raised by homosexual parents are harmed by the parenting, etc. Since there have been no peer reviewed studies in national, reputable journals to support these findings, we have to assume the social bias against gay marriage boils down to a ‘yuck’ factor felt by ignorant, bigoted or indifferent voters.

 Mr. Marcotte’s response perfectly counters pro Prop-8 logic. He asks California voters to take their policy to the extreme, something California voters do on a regular basis. Not only should an initiative like this please the religious supporters for Prop-8, it tests the willingness of yuck-factor voters to stand by their assertion of the sanctity of marriage.

The key here is that, as a matter of reality, we know that few heterosexual Californians, or Americans, have an unflinching belief in the sanctity of marriage. No voters in any states launched action to have marriage game shows banned from broadcast, least of all in the state of California. Indeed, episodes of The Bachelor were filmed in California. By my count so far every marriage but two (both from The Bachelorette) created on television failed within days or months of the conclusion of their commercial component. Clearly, Californians do not have moral objections about marriages with flagrant financial motives, or objections to marriages that exist for television purposes only. California’s tacit acceptance of marriage in an entertainment context drastically undercut’s the state’s supposed devotion to marriage’s sanctity.

Interestingly, comparing Pew Research Center data to data, it is notable that states whose policies are the least gay friendly (about the same distribution as the ‘red’ voting patterns on a political map) have some of the highest rates of divorcees in the nation. Here, Utah ironically leads the way with 13% of the nation’s divorced men and 16% of the nation’s divorced women. The same state that most aggressively seek to keep same sex couples from marrying fail to keep their heterosexual couples together. Hmm.

To correct this gap in logic, Californian voters should approve the initiative against divorce. While it is not the reciprocal of banning same sex couples from marrying, such a move supplies the missing substance behind an otherwise hollow, phony devotion to the idea of marriage as a hallowed institution. 



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