It’s now been three months since the state initiative that Rev. Jay Dennis, R-First Baptist Church at the Mall, helped publicly launch stripped gay people of rights they didn’t have. He has yet to publicly call for laws to restrict heterosexual divorce, which leads me to conclude that he cares much more about stigmatizing gays than protecting marriage.
Here’s the group’s spiel:
“Strong Marriages Florida” is a three year campaign to create a marriage movement in Florida, with the goal of strengthen marriages and reducing the divorce rate in Florida. The campaign was launched in response to the high number of divorces in Florida and the negative economic impact that the fragmentation of families has on Florida taxpayers and our communities.
The campaign has 5 basic goals:
1) Increase the number of couples receiving pre-marital preparation
2) Strengthen existing marriages and restore crisis marriages
3) Reduce the divorce rate in Florida by 10% by the year 2012.
4) Save taxpayers the costs of family fragmentation by approximately $100 million dollars annually.
5) Creating community awareness and a positive culture of marriage which celebrates and respects the institution of marriage for the benefit of children, families and the common good of society.
“Strong Marriages Florida” has both and a church/community component and a public policy component. The community component will include helping to form Community Marriage Initiatives in 12 major metro regions of the state and encouraging pastors to commit to requiring marriage preparation for all couples prior to performing a wedding.
In terms of policy, we will be studying and sharing current research about the status of marriage and divorce in Florida and the impact that the fragmentation of the family has on our society. The campaign will explore various public policy options like helping couples become better prepared before they get married and reforming the divorce laws that apply to families with minor children.
Of course, the last clause of the last sentence is where the rubber meets the road. And what laws does the group hint at reforming? The web site quotes a book attacking no-fault divorce and suggesting that the state should require “mutual consent” for a divorce to occur:
“The current law, called No Fault Divorce, or divorce on grounds of “irreconcilable differences,” in reality is Unilateral Divorce in which one spouse can force divorce on an unwilling partner. That is what happens in 80 percent of cases, according to Frank Furstenberg and Andrew Cherlin, authors of Divided Families. They argue that it is unfair to the spouse who does not want the divorce, who believes that the marriage is reconcilable. Although No Fault is less harmful to couples without children, 70% of divorces do involve a child.”
“If a couple has children, their obligation to them should take precedence over a personal desire by one parent to abandon the marriage. Therefore, only if both parents agree to divorce, should a marriage be terminated.”
Hmmm. Let’s slap that on the ballot, shall we? Abused wife? Need your husband’s permission to divorce him. Won’t get a job? Stuck with him. Serial cheater? Sorry. Or at least you’ll have to prove those things in court, with an expensive lawyer and legal fees most people can’t afford and with custody of your children at stake. I will say this: if this group does actually put that measure on the ballot in the future, I will have a little more respect for their motivations.
I’ll just start asking the legislators who have endorsed this project, like say, Seth McKeel and Dennis Ross, if they support that change in law. I doubt they’ve looked very closely at this. I’ll ask Charlie Crist, who has also endorsed this initiative, if no-fault marriage didn’t exist if he wouldn’t still be married to his first wife and Carole Rome wouldn’t still be a single socialite. Think of the party the Tallahassee press corps would have missed.
However, I do not think I’ll have to ask those questions. Rather, I think this entire effort is simply a splashy, but meaningless, answer to people like me who think leaders of the anti-gay lobby in Florida are frauds and charlatans.
It’s designed to allow people like James A. Smith Sr., executive editor of Florida Baptist Witness, to write things like this:
During the long battle over Amendment 2, opponents (and secular media) would frequently suggest or blatantly claim that pro-family leaders should be more concerned about divorce than “gay marriage” and that if they were troubled about divorce they would be doing something about it before “gay marriage,” which was deemed of little consequence to the society.
Of course, the claim falsely assumes that pro-family leaders are only capable of working on one thing at a time—and that supporting a proper definition of marriage in the constitution is mutually exclusive of expressing concern about and taking action against divorce.
In fact, both issues are closely related, which is why it’s only natural that having won the battle to protect the definition of marriage in our constitution that we should also give high profile attention to strengthening marriages and reducing the rate of divorce in our state.
Presumably religious leaders already talk often to their flocks about the importance of the family and marriage. I’m not clear to me that starting a web site to talk about it more publicly is terribly bold. These supposed leaders were willing to coerce gays, to use the force of the state against them. Are they not willing to use that force against a much stronger group?
Put your money where your mouth is, Mr. Smith, and the rest of you. Drop the end of no fault heterosexual divorce on the ballot. Campaign for it. I’ll be waiting.