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Protect marriage! But ban divorce?

December 2, 2009 | 12:24 pm
License Har dee har har har. The Associated Press has picked up the story of a satirical push for a ballot measure to ban divorce in California. Call it a mockery of the California ballot initiative process, marriage or Proposition 8 supporters, but you can't deny that it's thoroughly entertaining:

In a movement that seems ripped from the pages of [Comedy Central] writers, John Marcotte wants to put a measure on the ballot next year to ban divorce in California.

The effort is meant to be a satirical statement after California voters outlawed gay marriage in 2008, largely on the argument that a ban is needed to protect the sanctity of traditional marriage. If that's the case, then Marcotte reasons voters should have no problem banning divorce.

"Since California has decided to protect traditional marriage, I think it would be hypocritical of us not to sacrifice some of our own rights to protect traditional marriage even more," the 38-year-old married father of two said. ...

Not surprisingly, Marcotte's campaign to make divorce in California illegal has divided those involved in last year's campaign for and against Proposition 8.

As much as everyone would like to see fewer divorces, making it illegal would be "impractical," said Ron Prentice, the executive director of the California Family Council who led a coalition of religious and conservative groups to qualify Proposition 8. ...

Prentice said proponents of traditional marriage only seek to strengthen the one man-one woman union.

"That's where our intention begins and ends," he said.

Funny, what's preventing Prentice (who's written for us on gay marriage before) from using similar logic in his battle against same-sex nuptials? Couldn't he be content with "seeing fewer gay marriages" through advocacy instead of rewriting the California Constitution, just as he does in his efforts to reduce the divorce rate of straight couples?

As for ending marriages, I'd be open to some tinkering with the "till death do us part" system that results in too many expensive, drawn-out divorce battles. In 2007, Amy Alkon (whose recent Times Op-Ed article on unruly children in airplanes spent a good chunk of time on our "most viewed" and "most e-mailed" lists) suggested that marriage contracts ought to be more like driver's licenses: Every few years, couples would have to renew them. An intriguing idea, but a practical one? Post your thoughts in the comments area below.

(Full disclosure: I've been happily hitched since 2007, and I wouldn't hesitate to "renew" my marriage license under such a scheme. As for divorce, my parents split when I was 3 years old -- a move that, on reflection, was in everyone's best interest.)

-- Paul Thornton

Photo credit: Los Angeles Times

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