Straight Marriage To Be Just a Voluntary Contract in New York


New York State may at last join the rest of the country in no-fault divorce-a bill has passed the state Senate, and the Assembly is dealing with two bills on the matter. There’s a very helpful series of contributions, largely from actual people who know things, in the Times: an economist, a law professor, a sociologist… and then two policy people/lobbyists. Surprisingly, the most distressing of these contributions is from the president the New York chapter of NOW.

While the Wharton School professor presents evidence that women are less likely to commit suicide in no-fault divorce states, and also found a “large decrease” in domestic violence, attributed to the idea that it’s easier to leave a spouse without going through the legal system with an abuser, NOW is clinging to its policy that no-fault divorce is bad for women. They write:

No-fault takes away any bargaining leverage the non-moneyed spouse has. Currently she can say, “If you want a divorce I’ll agree, but you have to work out a fair agreement.”

That is not “blackmail” as has been claimed by some no-fault proponents. Negotiating the terms of the breakup of a partnership is the way partnerships are dissolved in the business world. Women should have the same protection.

While, speaking as a gay, I’m of course happy to have marriage reduced further to an issue of contracts and arbitration, which, oh right, it is. (And all citizens have an equal right to enter into contracts, right? Riiiight.)

But this seems a pretty wild way to stake out a feminist position. Why isn’t NOW pressing for the new divorce laws to at least make New York a community property state-and also pressing for legislation against asset-hiding, and the creation of legal assistance for divorcing women to assist with asset-hiding spouses? Since the whole point of getting out of the marriage is, I guess, to get paid.

In the end, all this just makes me think marriage seems kind of icky. Straight people sure are crazy, entering into contracts willy-nilly and then doing their best to screw over their former business partners.