While I do not approve of how gay marriage was given to us – it was clear judicial activism – I think we should now embrace the decision without delay or evasion. (I said years ago what should have been done and we can still do it!)
In fact, let’s take a page from the Saul Alinsky book for a change: Use the crisis of gay marriage to reform the other end of the marriage issue: Divorce laws. In the Commonwealth they are a disaster. Let me state the reasons (Actually I did so – in 1989!):
- Long separation periods to get divorced.
- Appeals from the Juvenile & Domestic Relations District Court to Circuit Court when means a new trial on all issues.
- Jurisdictional burdens to even go to court (you need in most cases six months to live in VA to even file).
- Adultery and other fault grounds can bar alimony for the offending spouse.
- Spousal support ought to be limited to extraordinary situations or temporary ones such as getting a degree.
- Child support could be collected like spousal abuse – swear out a warrant – but ability to pay ought to be a constitutionally required consideration. I am not wholly sold on that but needs study.
- Maybe visitation, too but I am not sure again – needs study.
- More forms for uncontested divorces even in circuit court.
There might have to be some tweaking of this platform and maybe some additions. I think we already have a transitional statute to ensure gays access to the courts. This is what I call the “he is she and she is he” statute (Code 1-216):
“A word used in the masculine includes the feminine and neuter.”
No need to change “husband” and “wife” for “spouse” except perhaps on forms (“Husband/Spouse” and “Wife/Spouse”) as needed.
My brief review of the divorce laws does not show need for dramatic changes in language other than perhaps the Turley/Sanders formulation: Take the word marriage out of the code and replace it with domestic partnership or similar term. I, maybe not Professor Turley, would include a strong protection for religious freedom.
So, let’s go and get these ideas out there. Study them. Virginia’s divorce laws favor men and the rich. They act as a gigantic wheel to hurt women and the poor. Let’s use this crisis to reform the laws and maybe some suburban women we scared away with the unconstitutional Terri Schiavo act will come back to the Republican Party.
Article written by: Elwood "Sandy" Sanders