I was just reading an article on Times Online by Naomi Wolf called “Love Lessons from Divorce.” And, among other things, she had this to say:
Let’s also get the state out of the marriage union. In spite of the dress and the flowers, marriage is a business contract. Women, generally, don’t understand this, until it hits them over the head upon divorce. Let’s take a lead from our gay and lesbian friends, who, without state marriage, often create domestic partnerships with financial autonomy and unity spelt out. A heterosexual parallel: celebrate marriage with a religious or emotional ceremony — leave the state out of it — and create a business- or domestic-partner contract aligning the couple legally.
I have to say that as recently as a month ago, I may not have agreed with Ms. Wolf on this. But I have found myself starting to shift my views on marriage, the more I write this blog. I don’t know whether that is good or bad. But I am starting to think that “marriage” as we know it is antediluvian. The model is as outdated as the cotton gin. It just does not work for most people–even a huge percentage of the 50% that do not divorce.
I think I am starting to agree that marriage should be reduced to contract and partnership law and that the State should stay out of it. Two parties should be able to draft up their own agreement and decide what is a deal breaker for them. And then they would obtain relief pursuant to contract law when one of the parties breach the contract. This idea of legislating “morality” and “marriage” and “the grounds upon which a marriage can end” is starting to perturb me. Now, admittedly, I am very capricious. And by this time next month I could totally say something different. I can do a total 180 degree change. So take everything I say with a grain of salt. But right this minute, I agree with Naomi Wolf.
Obviously, if the state did this it is going to put a lot of lawyers, like myself, out of business because there will be no need for divorce lawyers–at least not in the same context as they are needed now. I guess you will always need divorce lawyers. But we will be called something else. Domestic contract practitioners or something like that.
But right now, I just feel that there is a certain amount of “farce” to a lot of marriages, or to the whole concept of marriage. Something is wrong if someone can get married and divorced in 72 hours the way Britney Spears did a few years back, or get married for a green card, when other people who love each other can’t get married because it is somehow immoral. Maybe it is immoral. But so is a lot of other marital scenarios and now I just feel it’s a bunch of hypocrisy and judgment and I am starting to think that I am against marriage for everyone, and I am pro domestic contracts for anyone who wants it.
Do I think people should be free to enter into domestic contracts with whoever or whatever they want? I mean, what if someone wanted to contract with their pet dog? Should they be allowed to enter a contract? What if three people want to enter into a domestic contract with each other? Should they be allowed to enter into a contract? These are the problems, and worse case scenarios when we start to tinker with deeply entrenched traditions. I can’t answer this because I am obviously not in favor of that. But I am not sure what the basis would be to stop someone from entering into a contract with someone else (or something else) and proscribe others….
You know what? Maybe I am wrong. Maybe marriage should be left as is. It would be incredibly laborious and awkward to change things now. I do think, though, that it should be more difficult for some people to obtain a marriage license. As a general rule, marriage has become a bit too…how shall I say? too…”unsacred.” And, of course, that might be because the State, in all its glory, cannot “legislate morality” no matter how hard it tries.
So where does that leave us?