While I disagree with the argument, I do recognize that in the last century or so, heterosexuals have indeed made such a mockery of the committment of marriage that it's not such a big stretch to see it as a tax-break and benefit contract which one then celebrates with a big party (and then to argue that it should be extended to include same sex pairs, groups of more than two, and perhaps even humans and those animals intelligent enough to express consent to the relationship in some inter-species-love-friendly future). Divorce is so rampant that the tongue-in-cheek term "serial monogamy" has come to be used of those people whose idea of the sanctity of marriage is that so long as they are only married to one person at a time they are protecting that sanctity, instead of spitting on it; children clearly suffer from the effects of divorce; and the notion that a promise to wed is a promise to be together until death is considered a quaintly romantic thought to be expressed just before the happy engaged couple signs the pre-nup which spells out in detail who will get what when the inevitable divorce happens.
Some Christian supporters of the traditional notion of marriage have addressed this question, calling their faith communities to account for failing to consider divorce and remarriage an evil to be avoided, and making various proposals that would be designed to strengthen marriage and to make divorce much more difficult. They, and others who are discussing the problem of modern marriage, have identified one of the most corrosive influences on the state of matrimony: the creation of the no-fault divorce.
The first no-fault divorce law in America went into effect in California in 1970 (signed, alas, by then-Governor Ronald Reagan); women's groups had been pushing for such laws for at least twenty years prior to that time, on the grounds that it was degrading for women to have to go into court and commit perjury by swearing that they'd caught their husbands in adultery or that their husbands were guilty of cruelty to them in order to get divorced. It was assumed by such groups that the effects of no-fault divorce laws would be overwhelmingly positive for women; unfortunately, that did not turn out to be the case--so much so that when New York passed a no-fault divorce law in 2010 (becoming the last state in America to do so) the National Organization for Women joined the Catholic Church in protesting the law! The forty years since the passage of the first no-fault divorce law in America had proved what the Church warned all along, which was that no-fault divorce harms women, children, and the integrity of the family as well as society as a whole.
Why is that? As the innocent parties in these divorce laws can attest, no-fault divorce laws make it possible for one spouse to dissolve the marriage for any reason at all--and the other spouse often has little or no say in the matter, can't stop the proceedings, and, if children are involved, must often avoid becoming "adversarial" in order not to end up on the losing side of any custody arrangements. The advent of no-fault divorce laws changed the dynamic of marriage in imperceptible ways; married couples once knew that they had to put some effort into working out problems or unhappiness, but today an unhappy spouse can, in effect, hold the marriage hostage to his or her whims, and can still insist on ending the marriage even if his or her demands are fully met.
And simple unhappiness may be the cause of more no-fault divorces than people think, as this piece from Mercatornet points out:
The Mercatornet piece goes on to discuss some strategies for cutting down on the number of no-fault divorces; I think, though, that it might not be a bad idea to take a new look at the idea of covenant marriage laws, which permit people to decide up front whether or not to enter a marriage in which divorce will be an easy out. Ultimately, however, I would be in favor of ending no-fault divorce completely, both because of my religious beliefs about what marriage ought to be and because as a woman I can't fail to recognize that no-fault divorce has been an unmitigated disaster for women and children. Temporary unhappiness as a reason to end what was supposed to be a lifelong commitment of love and fidelity makes no sense; and yet for that reason many marriages end, many homes break apart, and many children are irrevocably hurt in a way that will have repercussions for them throughout their lives. It's time to end the insanity of the no-fault divorce laws; if we're serious about wanting to preserve the sanctity of marriage, that's the place where we need to start.
Among those who support the traditional concept of marriage there has been plenty of rhetoric in defence of the concept, but little has been done to come up with practical measures to shore up the institution. Now one organisation – the Institute of Marriage and Family Canada – is trying to change that with the report “Finding fault with no-fault divorce”. The report seeks not only to analyse the damage done by easy divorce, but to make concrete proposals to help rescue marriage.
On easy divorce, it says:
The shift from “fault” to “no-fault” divorce ultimately created a dynamic whereby one unhappy spouse who wanted out - for any reason or no reason at all - could unilaterally do so simply by moving out, be it two months or two years in. The end result is that we speak idealistic words (“till death do us part”) on our wedding days, knowing full well that when the going gets tough, we can - and do - get going.
In most countries that have adopted no-fault divorce, marriages have been failing at a disturbing rate. In Canada, for instance, it is estimated that around 40 percent of marriages that took place in the year 2008 will have ended in divorce by 2035. In Australia the rate is around one in three. But there is a glimmer of hope for the newly wed. The IMFC report highlights the fact that in most failing marriages, at least one of the partners will be in favour of trying to salvage the marriage. It also points out that around 85 to 90 per cent of divorces are in the category of “low-conflict divorce” and that among these, two out of three “unhappily married adults” who manage to avoid divorce or separation end up describing themselves as “happily married” five years later.
Given these facts, the report argues that taking steps to save marriages should be considered as “at least as viable an option” as proceeding with divorce. This view is supported by the Institute for American Values, which argues that “unhappy marriages are less common than unhappy spouses”. This is because its own research indicates that three out of four “unhappily married adults” are married to someone who is happy with the marriage. The IMFC concludes: “If divorce is pushed by one unhappy spouse, whose partner is happy - which, in a low conflict marriage means they have just as great a chance of being happily married five years later – then unilateral divorce simply makes it easy for the one unhappy partner to leave without explanation or negotiation.”