Republican-Led States Are Making Divorces Difficult To Get — Unless, Say, Your Husband Can't Get An Erection!

In the midst of the Republican Party's concern over how to handle the rapid expansion of legal same-sex marriage, they're launching another battle about matrimony — to complicate and limit no-fault divorce. In Utah, Louisiana and Arizona, laws striving to do so have already been passed by Republican-controlled legislatures, while similar bills await. Simply put, the thinking is that by instituting barriers in the way of getting divorced, fewer people in all will go through with doing so.

This would seem to be part and parcel of the Republican tact on marriage in recent years, a full 180-degree turn away from their claimed support for small, un-intrusive government. In the first place, they broadly opposes same-sex marriage, being perfectly happy to leverage the power of the state to prevent it. Now, they're also using the power of government to try to keep people bound together who don't want to be.

For example, Oklahoma lawmakers are now considering a bill that would outlaw no-fault divorce, but would leave the option open in cases of "impotency," which is amusingly telling given the modern GOP's fixation on procreation. Your husband can't get an erection? Okay, okay, now you can get divorced.

This could have the most considerable impact on women who're suffering through abusive marriages. Among other things, the rise of no-fault divorce since the late 1960s has had a pronounced effect on rates of domestic violence and homicide. According to a 2003 Stanford study, states which allowed no-fault divorce cut their rates of domestic violence by one-third in just ten years. The rate of husbands killing wives, at least those convicted, also dropped by ten percent.

Suicide rates for wives are also lower in such no-fault divorce states. The main thrust of the GOP's argument seems similar to the anti-abortion movement — that the family life is sacrosanct, and the government needs to protect the marriage at the expense of all else, the freedom and autonomy of a potentially abused woman included.

Some modern Republicans see marriage as something to be protected, even if one or both of the people involved doesn't want to be married anymore. During his presidential run in 2012, former GOP Senator Rick Santorum offered this brilliant blanket suggestion, as a cure for poverty.

If you do these two things [graduate high school and get married], you will be successful economically.

This is no small issue. The right to accessible, swift divorce proceedings is one which was fought for, an the activist level, for years and years prior to its mainstream acceptance. But sadly, like many battles the political left may have thought were over and done with, there's no such thing as settled social policy in Republican-controlled legislatures these days.