Via Pam, the founder of Beliefnet, Steven Waldman, wrote up another "compromise" for same-sex marriage advocates to advance. This one, like the silly Rauch/Blankenhorn compromise proposed in the NY Times a month ago, asks for us to push for a piece of right wing legislation "in exchange" for same-sex marriage. (As if the Religious Right would compromise or could be trusted to take part in a grand bargain....)
Basically, Waldman says that we should be pushing for both same-sex marriage and covenant marriage.
A covenant marriage is a legally distinct kind of marriage that's a lot harder to end. Divorce can only happen for certain reasons, like adultery, abuse, or jail-time, or else a couple has to wait a long period of time to file, like two years. It's the brain-child of that modern sage of social responsibility, Tony Perkins, and has been implemented in three states that I'm sure we'd all love to emulate: Alabama, Louisiana, and Arkansas.
Waldman's idea would probably get some easy support from some same-sex marriage advocates who push talking points like "LGBT couples don't hurt the institution of marriage; divorce does!" But just because many LGBT people want access to marriage doesn't mean we should go crazy.
The rah-rah against divorce, I suppose, is meant to show how much we want marriage. Divorce is certainly an easy target. No one really likes to go through one, and the Religious Right has been pushing the anti-divorce angle for so long that many people assume that it's an awful but necessary institution, one that ruins children's lives, wastes men's money (via alimony), and throws men and women into the worst hell imaginable: the heterosexual middle-aged dating scene.
But while it's easy to hate on divorce, let's not forget that it's a wonderful institution that not too long ago Americans were fighting to make more easily accessible. It gets people out of abusive (both emotionally and physically) relationships and is often a sign of people changing or growing further apart. For some people who marry young it's part of emotionally maturing.
And, most importantly, no-fault divorce is part of living in a free society where both men and women are able to choose how they want to live. Because no matter how much we might think it's a great idea to force people to stay in a marriage they don't want to be in, they are the ones who should ultimately make that decision, not the government.
Covenant marriage appears at first glance like a solution in search of a problem. If both people in a couple really, really wanted to make their marriage difficult to get out of, they'd simply impose on themselves the rules that come with covenant marriage.
A couple in a regular marriage can say, "Neither of us is going to jail, no one committed adultery, and neither of us is physically abusing the other. So, even though we'd very much like to divorce, we're not going to."
Ta-da, without the help of the state, they have a covenant marriage.
But the thought that people might actually be able to make decisions for themselves is never satisfying for folks like Tony Perkins. Authoritarian-minded people think the state is needed to intervene on behalf of people's own poor character clouding their moral judgment, so they make up things like covenant marriage.
Waldman's other suggestion for marriage activists is that they support Tony Perkins's other proposals for making marriage harder to end. All of his suggestions, including covenant marriage, focus on making divorce harder instead of supporting legislation that we know will actually help people enter marriages they want to enter and be less likely to want to end them, like legislation that would improve education, increase access to contraception and family-planning, and redistribute wealth downwards instead of upwards.
We already know that people who are more financially stable, who marry later, and who have a better ability to plan their lives are less likely to divorce, so why do we think the only way to "strengthen marriage" is to penalize people who are already at a point where they want to end theirs?
Same-sex marriage is about promoting sexual autonomy and letting people decide for themselves how they want to live their lives, not about sending same-sex couples back to the 1950's where divorce was a dirty word.
Covenant marriage is the ideological opposite of what we should be doing, which is expanding the options people have so that they can choose the relationship rights and recognitions they need to protect the families they already have.