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Groups Sharply Criticize Governor For Attack on Current Divorce Laws

Posted: August 15, 2007|Category: Discrimination Category: LGBT Rights Category: Women's Rights

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Citing his “inexplicable” attack on the state’s no-fault divorce laws, four organizations concerned about the rights of women have called on Governor Donald Carcieri to withdraw the brief he recently filed in the R.I. Supreme Court on same-sex marriage.

The strong opposition to same-sex marriage contained in the Governor's brief– written by an out-of-state private attorney – has been widely noted. However, in a letter to the Governor from the R.I. Coalition Against Domestic Violence, the R.I. ACLU and the local chapters of NOW and the National Association of Social Workers, the groups point out that the brief also contains “a frontal attack on the concept of no-fault divorce, a fundamental principle of family law for over three decades in Rhode Island (and much of the rest of the country).” Calling it “hard to imagine why the brief even touches on this issue, other than to turn the brief-writing opportunity into an ideological pulpit,” the letter points to “significant research that describes the significant benefits that no-fault divorce laws brought for women, including a reduction in domestic violence.”

Nonetheless, the Governor’s brief claims that no-fault divorce has left “more children ill-equipped to cope in a world already fraught with problems” and created “a whole new class of inequality” for women and children. The brief even cites a source complaining that no-fault divorce led women to take “steps to protect their human capital by entering the work force and pursuing education.” The groups’ letter states, “We know there are some people out there who long for a return to the ‘idyllic’ 1950’s when women knew their place was in the kitchen, but we do not expect to hear echoes of it emanating from a Gubernatorial court brief.”

The letter raises concerns as to whether, in light of the brief’s arguments, the Governor might consider proposing the repeal of the state’s no-fault divorce statutes, and whether his “numerous and deep proposed cuts to child welfare programs have been based on the view that policies like no-fault divorce are largely responsible for the poverty problems faced by our children, thus reducing the moral obligation of the state to address child poverty.”

Instead, the letter expressed hope that the arguments made in the brief regarding no-fault divorce “represent the personal views, expressed without your knowledge, of the private attorney who prepared the brief. If this is the case, then we strongly urge you to consider withdrawing your brief from the R.I. Supreme Court. Otherwise, we request that you formally clarify your position on these issues. When a brief filed in the R.I. Supreme Court appears to put much of the blame of childhood poverty and economic inequality faced by women on modern divorce laws, and further criticizes those laws for encouraging women to pursue educational opportunities, surely the public deserves to know exactly where the dividing line between your official policy positions and those of the private attorney hired to write the brief lies.”

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