RALPH SHAFFER: In N.D., the DODO can and should rise again
POMONA, Calif. -- This week, the U S Supreme Court heard oral arguments on two vital issues tearing at the American social fabric. On Tuesday, the court considered California's Proposition 8, which bans same-sex marriage. On Wednesday the 1996 fe...
POMONA, Calif. -- This week, the U S Supreme Court heard oral arguments on two vital issues tearing at the American social fabric. On Tuesday, the court considered California's Proposition 8, which bans same-sex marriage. On Wednesday the 1996 federal Defense of Marriage Act or DOMA, defining marriage as between one man and one woman, took center stage.
While traditionalists condemn gay marriage as undermining the fundamental unit of family life, they have ignored the greatest danger to marriage: unregulated divorce.
What this country needs is a Defense of Divorce Ordinance (DODO), restricting divorce's occurrence.
At present, divorce is as accessible as a convenience store snack. Where is the North Dakota Legislature when we need it? Why is there no Tea Party campaign to suppress divorce?
Divorce now runs marriage a close second. About half the weddings eventually go pfft. Not only are straights divorcing in record numbers, gays, too, enjoy the right to split in states where the can legally wed.
In their arguments against overturning DOMA and negating Prop. 8, defenders of traditional marriage stressed that children need both a mother and a father. But it isn't gay marriage that leaves young people without one of those parents. Divorce is a major cause of fatherless children.
Because Congress won't maintain the integrity of marriage by establishing stricter divorce rules, other means are available. Local ordinances may achieve what Congress won't even kick down the road.
If a Georgia town can require that every home have a gun, why can't some North Dakota community lead the way to shutting down divorce mills? A local Defense of Divorce Ordinance could make separation so difficult and costly that couples contemplating it instead will seek out a marriage counselor.
Eventually, DODO will be quashed by activist judges, who'll rule that the issue is one for the North Dakota's Legislature, not a City Council. But DODO will have raised awareness of the divorce crisis, nudging the state's Republicans into action.
North Dakota's conservative legislators ought to act as forcefully on divorce as they have on abortion. Arkansas' newly adopted Heartbeat Protection Act, which virtually bans all abortions later than twelve weeks of pregnancy, might have been the model for divorce. But this month North Dakota, where fetal heartbeats may occur earlier due to the climate, set six weeks as the standard.
In both cases, the reasoning -- that life begins with that first heartbeat -- is faulty. Life really begins with that consummating kiss at the altar. Divorce destroys the sanctity of both the marriage vows and that kiss.
While all separations won't be banned, using North Dakota's abortion parameters, no marriage can be dissolved after the first six weeks. Before that, divorce will be illegal, but annulment will be permitted.
If a car buyer can cancel a contract in the first few days citing "buyer remorse," bride and bridegroom remorse ought to be legitimate grounds for annulment.
Why six weeks? It takes more time to find the flaw in a marriage than in a car. If half a trimester satisfies anti-abortionists, let their deadline be the cut-off point for annulment.
A North Dakota law won't bind the other 49 states. But if Congress can pass DOMA, why not a federal DODO?
Republicans and conservative Democrats will rally around family values, protection of children, the sanctity of marriage and all the other slogans we have heard in recent weeks over the marriage issue. A congress that can pass a DOMA can surely create a DODO.
The DODO isn't dead.
Shaffer is professor emeritus at of history at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona.