The ‘make woman disposable’ law

As goes the effort at social commentary sired by Cahn/vanHeusen by way of Frank Sinatra,

Love and marriage, love and marriage

Goes together like a horse and carriage,

But sometimes people want to shoot the horse and burn the carriage, which is what Governor Patterson is about to do with a stroke of his pen.

A new divorce bill has passed both houses of what can charitably be described as our state legislature. It only waits the virtually (this time a back room deal did not even have to be made) assured blessing of our governor to become law. The law will make it easier to get out of a marriage than out of a magazine subscription.

One spouse, usually the husband, has merely to sign an affidavit that his marriage has irretrievably broken down. Since it takes two to tango or at least to agree that it has not broken down, the couple are – give or take a few legal papers (for which, undoubtedly the lawyers will be generously paid) – divorced. In time, the law may come to be called The Lawyer’s Relief Act Of 2010.

All the descriptions of the law make it sound good and modern. But is it really? It is a bit similar to a description given, in another context by John Randolph of Roanoke, [It is] like a rotten mackerel by moonlight, shined and stunk. The law, as hyped, glitters, glimmers and shimmers but when examined closely, is odiferous.

This law would permit an older, long married and rich man to unceremoniously dump his wife. Sure, for being thrown under the bus, she will receive money, perhaps lots of money. But money is a peculiar commodity. The more you have of it, the cheaper it is to you. And with all the impedimenta of science, its practitioners have still not been able to effectuate the transmogrification of money into the lost years of a woman’s life.

At the other end of the socio-economic spectrum, women would lose all power to obtain a better settlement from a husband who has a similar emotional attachment to his wife similar to that which he enjoys with an empty, crumpled package of cigarettes he tosses into a waste basket.

The law will surely raise the divorce rate since the human condition is such that if you allow something to be done with less difficulty than previously, more people will do it. Result: more disposable women.

The proponents of the law point to the fact that New York is the only state to require grounds for divorce. There never was a worse reason for a law than everybody else has one. This may be a reason to buy a new necktie, dress or computer, but not for something that will affect the lives of, ultimately millions of people. Justice Holmes used the word “revolting” to describe this kind of decision-making.

What about the fact that after thirty years of taking a contrary position, the women’s bar associations now, like Paul on the road to Damascus who saw the light of the Lord, suddenly realize that the present law prevents suffering women from obtaining a divorce? Nonsense! There are presently five “fault” grounds for divorce and additionally a “non-fault” ground.

There are, of course, “good” divorces, ones that should take place and that are appropriate on both a societal and personal basis. But divorce is not nor was meant to be a remedy for ennui, boredom or the desire to trade a spouse in for a newer model.

For the last two thousand years, marriage has been treated as a societal good and divorce a state of grace not to be desired. Jesus taught, “Let those who are for putting away their wives consider what would become of themselves, if God dealt with them in a like manner.” Still sounds like pretty good advice!

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