The Christian right is coming for divorce next

“Before the 1960s, it was really hard to get divorced in America.
Typically, the only way to do it was to convince a judge that your spouse had committed some form of wrongdoing, like adultery, abandonment, or “cruelty” (that is, abuse). This could be difficult: “Even if you could prove you had been hit, that didn’t necessarily mean it rose to the level of cruelty that justified a divorce,” said Marcia Zug, a family law professor at the University of South Carolina.

Then came a revolution: In 1969, then-Gov. Ronald Reagan of California (who was himself divorced) signed the nation’s first no-fault divorce law, allowing people to end their marriages without proving they’d been wronged. The move was a recognition that “people were going to get out of marriages,” Zug said, and gave them a way to do that without resorting to subterfuge. Similar laws soon swept the country, and rates of domestic violence and spousal murder began to drop as people — especially women — gained more freedom to leave dangerous situations.

Today, however, a counter-revolution is brewing: Conservative commentators and lawmakers are calling for an end to no-fault divorce, arguing that it has harmed men and even destroyed the fabric of society.”

“It’s worth noting that though the no-fault laws initially led to spikes in divorce, rates then began to drop, and reached a 50-year low in 2019, CNN reports. But today, an end to no-fault divorce would cause enormous financial, logistical, and emotional strain for people who are trying to end their marriages, experts say. Proving fault requires a trial, something many divorcing couples today avoid, said Kristen Marinaccio, a New Jersey-based family law attorney. A divorce trial is time-consuming and costly, putting the partner with less money at an immediate disadvantage. It can also be “really, really traumatizing” to have to take the stand against an ex-partner, Marinaccio said.

There’s also no guarantee that judges will always decide cases fairly. In the days of fault-based divorce, courts were often unwilling to intervene in marriages even in cases of abuse, Zug said.

No-fault divorce can be easier on children, who don’t have to experience their parents facing each other in a trial, experts say. Research suggests that allowing such divorces increased women’s power in marriages and even reduced women’s suicide rates. A return to the old ways would turn back the clock on this progress, scholars say.

“We know exactly what happens when people can’t get out of very unhappy marriages,” Zug said. “There’s much higher incidences of domestic abuse and spousal murder.””

The Conviction Effect

“In the roughly week and a half since former president (and presumptive Republican presidential nominee) Donald Trump was convicted of 34 felonies related to falsifying records to hide hush-money payments to a porn star, numerous national polls have indicated that voters have moved slightly toward incumbent president (and presumptive Democratic presidential nominee) Joe Biden.
A HarrisX/Forbes poll found Biden and Trump each getting a one-point bump after the verdict. A Reuters/Ipsos poll found a one-point bump for Biden, with Trump losing a point. A Morning Consult poll found a one-point bump for Biden, with Trump neither gaining nor losing any ground. And an Echelon Insights poll found a two-point Biden bump, with Trump support staying flat. (All poll results can be found in a chart here.)”

“”The verdict has not overhauled the 2024 race nearly as much as Democrats hoped it would,” writes The Washington Post’s Aaron Blake. “But the totality of the evidence suggests it has dinged Trump a little.””

China’s Demand for Brides Draws Women from Across Southeast Asia—Sometimes by Force

“Every year, women and girls from Southeast Asia move to China, sometimes by force or coercion, to marry Chinese men, care for them, and bear children. While many migrate voluntarily, knowing that they are to be married, an unknown number of women from countries including Cambodia, Myanmar (also known as Burma), Indonesia, and Vietnam are deceived or trapped in their situations. Similarly, although some women are happy in their marriages, others are exposed to violence, sexual abuse, and forced labor.
China’s historical one-child policy (which formally ended in 2016), coupled with a cultural preference for sons, has led to a gender imbalance there, which is one reason for this migration. The country had about 35 million more males than females, according to the 2020 census. Moreover, arranged marriages are common, creating the opportunity for exploitation. Men looking for foreign brides tend to be poorer by Chinese standards yet may pay brokers or matchmakers several thousand dollars—and sometimes more than U.S. $40,000, according to researchers. The expectation for men to marry and produce a son is one reason for the dramatic increase in bride prices. The many men who are unable to find wives in China often face social pressures and a degree of public sympathy, as do their families, which contributes to normalizing the process of paying for brides.”

Romantic norms are in flux. No wonder everyone’s obsessed with polyamory.

“There’s currently a record-high share of 40-year-old Americans who’ve never been married (25 percent, as of 2021, an increase from 20 percent in 2010 and 6 percent in 1980), and according to a Pew Center study last year, only 23 percent of Americans see marriage as essential for living a fulfilling life. More than half of single Americans say they aren’t looking for a relationship or even casual dates, largely because they enjoy singlehood or have more pressing priorities. The birthrate has been steadily falling since the Great Recession, which the Brookings Institution argues stems from “shifting priorities” rather than political or economic changes. Young people are having sex later; from 1991 to 2015, a CDC survey found that the percentage of high schoolers who’d had intercourse dropped from 54 percent to 41 percent. The reasons people are having less sex, according to the viral “sex recession” Atlantic feature from 2018, range from smartphone access to surveillance culture, gamified online dating, and improved awareness of boundaries and gender politics. In other words, it’s likely a variety of cultural shifts that explain these changes rather than a single silver bullet.”

“the pro-marriage cohort is getting louder. They cite studies that show married people are happier and wealthier, and are more likely to raise happy children. New York Times columnist David Brooks last year advised young people to “obsess less about your career and to think a lot more about marriage.” Economist Melissa Kearney’s recent book argues that the falling marriage rate is to blame for rising inequality. In the face of greater political polarization between the sexes (young women are increasingly likely to be liberal, young men conservative), a recent Washington Post op-ed suggested that “someone will need to compromise” if they ever hope to marry. (Left unasked was why, say, a woman in a post-Roe world would ever want to date someone who did not think she deserved autonomy over her own body.) Loudest among them is University of Virginia sociologist Brad Wilcox’s book Get Married: Why Americans Must Defy the Elites, Forge Strong Families, and Save Civilization, which claims that liberal thought leaders’ denial of the importance of marriage amounts to “an unusual form of hypocrisy that, however well intended, contributes to American inequality, increases misery, and borders on the immoral.””

What Does the Respect for Marriage Act Actually Say?

“Twelve Republican lawmakers crossed the aisle and voted with all the Democrats for the bill, which will enshrine federal recognition for same-sex and interracial marriages in states that have legalized it.

The Respect for Marriage Act is intended as a backstop should the Supreme Court ever decide to reconsider and overturn U.S. v. Windsor, which ruled that the federal government must recognize state-approved, same-sex marriages, and Obergefell v. Hodges, which ruled that all states and the federal government must legally recognize same-sex marriage. The Respect for Marriage Act repeals and replaces the Defense of Marriage Act, passed in 1996, which prevented the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriage.”

“The Respect for Marriage Act requires the federal government to recognize same-sex marriages performed in states where it is legal. This is obviously very important in terms of taxes and federal benefits that are tied to marriage. This is not an expansion of the federal government so much as widening the group of people who have access to existing privileges, rights, and benefits.”

“The Respect for Marriage Act does not require any state to legalize same-sex marriages. Many states still have bans on recognition on the books. If the Supreme Court ever decides to overturn Obergefell, those bans will likely become active again. The Times coverage somewhat downplays this, and some gay couples might end up being surprised at what happens if Obergefell ever goes away.

The Respect for Marriage Act does require states to recognize same-sex marriages performed legally in other states. While this feels awkward and intrusive from a federalism standpoint, do try to imagine what would happen if this were not the case. More specifically, try to imagine if this were not the case with heterosexual couples. Each state sets its own marriage rules, but each state historically recognizes legal marriage licenses from other states for heterosexual couples. Gay couples shouldn’t be any different.

The Respect for Marriage Act lets religious organizations decline to participate in gay weddings. The bill specifically provides that churches and other houses of worship, religious groups, faith-based social agencies, etc. “shall not be required to provide services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods, or privileges for the solemnization or celebration of a marriage. Any refusal under this subsection to provide such services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods, or privileges shall not create any civil claim or cause of action.””

The GOP’s same-sex marriage evolution: A slow, choppy tidal shift

“LGBTQ advocates chafe at the fact that the bill does not truly codify a national right to same-sex marriage, instead repealing the Defense of Marriage Act and requiring all states to recognize marriages performed in other states should the high court reverse its earlier ruling. Supportive Republicans may not have gone further than they did, and the bill only squeaked by Tuesday, 61-36.”

Republicans have a nonsensical argument against the same-sex marriage bill

“Cornyn is among a number of Republicans, including Sens. Marco Rubio (R-FL), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), and Mitt Romney (R-UT) who’ve argued that taking the bill up is superfluous, as the GOP seeks to keep the focus on other issues like inflation. While Cornyn and Rubio oppose the bill, however, Cassidy and Romney are among the Republicans who have yet to say where they stand.”

“By their reasoning, lawmakers don’t need to consider this legislation, which has already passed the House and is known as the Respect for Marriage Act, because the Supreme Court will treat the Obergefell v. Hodges decision that established this right as settled law.
In his concurrent opinion in the recent Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision, however, Justice Clarence Thomas said that Obergefell was among the decisions he was interested in reconsidering. Previously, multiple justices also said they believed Roe was an established precedent only to vote to overturn it in Dobbs. That’s left Democrats arguing that the marriage bill Congress is weighing is vital to enshrine these protections into federal law in case the Supreme Court reverses the precedent set in Obergefell.”

“Ultimately, the Republican position is about deflection. GOP lawmakers would be taking an unpopular position if they opposed the bill, so they are instead claiming to be opposed to legislative redundancy and overreach. Additionally, this framing helps them avoid what some GOP lawmakers see as a lose-lose scenario: Opposing the measure could prompt backlash from moderate voters, while supporting it could enrage socially conservative members of their base.”