The Conversation - The red-state dispute over divorce

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Of all the seismic cultural shifts in the 20th century, the rise of no-fault divorce sometimes goes unheralded. Today, Americans take it for granted that unhappy spouses are free to leave their marriages for any or no reason at all. But for much of U.S. history, divorce was actually illegal or severely restricted.

In recent years, no-fault divorce hasn’t been a big culture-war issue – perhaps because it’s been legal across the country for decades and there’s evidence it reduces female suicides and domestic violence. But in Oklahoma, Texas, Louisiana and other states, lawmakers have been quietly – and in some cases, loudly – pushing to make it illegal again. 



University of South Carolina law professor Marcia Zug – author of “You’ll Do: A History of Marrying for Reasons Other Than Love” – sees this growing campaign as proof that Americans can’t agree on the purpose of marriage. On one side is today’s common view that nothing matters more than love. On the other is a more transactional idea of marriage that has faded since the 19th century – but never truly disappeared. 


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Why are Americans fighting over no-fault divorce? Maybe they can’t agree what marriage is for

Marcia Zug, University of South Carolina

A growing number of Republicans say that you shouldn’t be able to divorce simply because you’ve fallen out of love. It’s an idea with a long history.

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