STEVEN CROWDER, THE right-wing podcaster, is getting a divorce. “No, this was not my choice,” Crowder told his online audience last week. “My then-wife decided that she didn’t want to be married anymore — and in the state of Texas, that is completely permitted.”
Crowder’s emphasis on “the state of Texas” makes it sound like the Lone Star State is an outlier, but all 50 states and the District of Columbia have no-fault divorce laws on the books — laws that allow either party to walk away from an unhappy marriage without having to prove abuse, infidelity, or other misconduct in court.
It was a hard-fought journey to get there. It took more than four decades to end fault-based divorce in America: California was the first state to eliminate it, in 1969; New York didn’t come around until 2010. (And there are caveats: Mississippi and South Dakota still only allow no-fault divorce if both parties agree to dissolve the marriage, for example.)
Researchers who tracked the emergence of no-fault divorce laws state by state over that period found that reform led to dramatic drops in the rates of female suicide and domestic violence, as well as decreases in spousal homicide of women. The decreases, one researcher explained, were “not just because abused women (and men) could more easily divorce their abusers, but also because potential abusers knew that they were more likely to be left."
Today, more than two-thirds of all heterosexual divorces in the U.S. are initiated by women.
Republicans across the country are now reconsidering no-fault divorce. There isn’t a huge mystery behind the campaign: Like the crusades against abortion and contraception, making it more difficult to leave an unhappy marriage is about control. Crowder’s home state could be the first to eliminate it, if the Texas GOP gets its way. Last year, the Republican Party of Texas added language to its platform calling for an end to no-fault divorce: “We urge the Legislature to rescind unilateral no-fault divorce laws, to support covenant marriage, and to pass legislation extending the period of time in which a divorce may occur to six months after the date of filing for divorce.”
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