Bizarro is brought to you today by Choice.
I’ve made no secret of the fact that I believe that denying non-heterosexual couples the right to marry is as bigoted as denying women or non-whites the right to vote. Fortunately, it seems that most Americans currently agree and this particular injustice is probably on its way out of the justice system for good. Maybe not tomorrow, but in my lifetime. Unless I’m killed prematurely. At the hands of a homophobe. Probably with a gun he bought without a background check.
But more to the point, I think marriage should be taken out of the government’s hands entirely; it should be a personal or religious choice and unregulated or documented by the authorities.
(Child support, on the other hand, should be a part of the legal system because basic social responsibility for the crotch fruit a person drags into this world is good for all of society.) The only reasons I can think of for marriage’s inclusion in the government’s business (and I’m speaking as an amateur historical expert here) are archaic.
America’s current marriage and divorce laws are based on ancient times when men “owned” their wives. For centuries, women were kept at home like slaves––cooking, cleaning, spitting out babies and taking care of them until she (or he) dropped dead. The men often had sex partners on the side, which was silently accepted in most societies, but if the woman did, she was executed or at least ostracized by “decent” society. Even in more recent and less barbaric times, like when I was a kid in the sixties, most women didn’t work so if a man dumped his wife in her later years, she had no reasonable way to take care of herself. Thus the concept of alimony. Under those conditions that seemed fair and probably was.
In today’s America, however, staying home to raise children is something that women are not forced to do, but choose to do. In the society I am imagining, if a woman chooses this and her husband leaves her in midlife without any logical means of support, she could still sue him for the injustice, and the courts would hear these cases. But women who never had children but still chose not to work, despite their husband’s encouragement to do so, have no logical argument for alimony after the marriage is over. If the only reason the woman has no means of supporting herself was her own choice, why does the husband owe her a living beyond the time they are living together?
I personally know a man whose wife cheated, lied, stole money, got into trouble with the law, drank and drugged to excess, and personally made their apartment a pig sty. When he’d finally had enough, he left. But because of their state’s “no fault” policy toward divorce (most states in America have this system), his story was never considered or even allowed to be told in court. The courts don’t care. Instead, he is routinely ordered to pay her thousands of dollars a month for years. No matter what the situation is, everything gets split in half, including the hard-working member of the marriage’s income for years after they split. How does this make sense in today’s America? (This sometimes happens the other way around and the woman is the one with the money and must share it with the deadbeat husband, but it is rare.) These laws are clearly based on more primitive times and have their roots in the ownership of women. Yet almost everyone knows someone to whom this has happened.
So while I’m happy that non-traditional couples are slowly but surely being granted the rights of the majority, I increasingly find myself in the camp that wonders why anyone would want to drag judges and lawyers into their relationship. I know I’ll never make that mistake again.