Not Content to Deny Marriage to Gays, Group Wants to Legislate Divorce

The Palm Beach Post published an editorial today that takes a tough stance against the group that backed the scabrous Amendment 2 passed in the recent election that defined marriage as between a man and a woman, period. Now it appears that they want to pretty much outlaw divorce, ostensibly for the sake of Florida’s children.

Having helped to make sure that marriage in this state is off-limits to gays and lesbians, the Florida Family Policy Council wants to set marriage standards for everybody else in Florida. If the group has its way, some of those standards would be written into law.

In announcing the effort he calls “Strong Marriages Florida,” John Stemberger, president of the Florida Family Policy Council, said that to lower the state’s divorce rate by 10 percent “we are launching an initiative to serve the children, families, communities of Florida.” To justify making your marriage his business, Mr. Stemberger says, “The breakdown of families in our state brings not only high social costs to children whose lives are often devastated, but there is an enormous economic cost to taxpayers and to businesses.”

Success in the campaign to ban gay marriage, which featured misinformation and religious intolerance, doesn’t qualify the Florida Family Policy Council to be the state’s marriage counselor.

Mr. Stemberger’s group and its allies promoted the gay marriage ban that voters put in Florida’s Constitution in November. Success in that campaign, which featured misinformation and religious intolerance, doesn’t qualify the Florida Family Policy Council to be the state’s marriage counselor.

This newspaper for years has noted the link between unprepared parents and troubled children. We have no quarrel with a church, religion or other private group that wants to set requirements for marriage or establish programs to strengthen marriage. The problem comes when that church, religion or group believes that its standards, beliefs or practices should be written into law.

“Strong Marriages Florida” has not proposed a legislative agenda. But its Web page approvingly cites laws in other states that impose waiting periods of up to two years before couples can be granted a divorce. Florida does not have any waiting period. A waiting period, the group says, “is to allow the couple more time to reflect and perhaps seek reconciliation.” The couple also would have “more time to consider and evaluate the impact that the divorce would have on any minor children in the family.”

We’d agree that couples shouldn’t rush into divorce any more than they should rush into marriage. But the government has no business telling adults who have decided on a divorce that they must wait two years to get it.

In Florida, either party to a marriage can sue for divorce. Mr. Stemberger’s group clearly wants that to change. An article on the Web site says that married couples with children should have to stay married unless both agree to the divorce or there has been a “major fault,” such as abuse, adultery or desertion. This requirement would be based on “the need of children to be raised by their own mother and father.”

Again, we agree that it’s best if two parents raise children. But requiring an unwilling partner to stay in a marriage wouldn’t help those children. And such a law would result in unfounded – but difficult to disprove – charges of abuse, which could devastate the accused partner as well as children of the marriage.

The state has to set some rules for marriage as well as for divorce. But in general, the state should not substitute its judgment for the judgment of the couple. And in no case should the state replace the couple’s decisions with those of the Florida Family Policy Council.

One comment

  • Garryinnola
    February 26, 2009 - 11:24 am | Permalink

    Have any of these people stopped to think of the emotional scars inflicted on children who live in a household where their parents are unhappy together, want out of their marriage and fight constantly? So making divorce more difficult to obtain is supposed to benefit children? In what way?

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