As damaging as they are for the institution of marriage, same-sex unions are not the most pressing threat today. The most ruinous threat is the law of no-fault divorce.
First introduced by the Bolsheviks as a means of undermining the power of the church in post-Revolution Russia, unilateral no-fault divorce eliminates any requirement for an aggrieved spouse to prove that his or her partner has violated the vows of marriage before being granted dissolution. Prior to the institution of no-fault divorce, parties seeking a divorce had to provide legal evidence of one of a handful of marriage deal-breakers including abuse, abandonment, cruelty, or adultery.
That changed in 1969 when then-Governor Ronald Reagan (himself a divorcee) launched the divorce reform revolution by leading California to become the second state in the union to permit unilateral divorces based on “irreconcilable differences.” (Reagan later called it the biggest mistake of his political career). Other states soon followed California's example, leading in the 1970s to a surge (triple digits by some accounts) in the skyrocketing number of divorces. All 50 states now sanction no-fault divorce. Marriage is now the only legally binding contract that a person can arbitrarily break without the consent of the other party without facing any penalty. Given those terms one has to wonder how modern marriage is considered a contract at all.
More than 80 percent of divorces in the U.S. are now no-fault divorce. For those who may argue that no-fault divorce was necessary to protect abused wives, domestic abuse and abandonment has always been grounds for legally ending a marriage. Evangelical blogger Matthew Lee Anderson pondered here if the church is failing to focus on the more pressing threat. He said,
As long as there is no political will around divorce than [sic] it seems like our main concern is keeping gay people out of marriage rather than restoring marriage itself ...
... On marriage, though, evangelicals have mostly thought in conservative and defensive terms. When the marriage movement started, the immediate cause was undermining the no-fault divorce regime. The first book I read on marriage policy, Maggie Gallagher and Linda Waite’s influential The Case for Marriage, barely mentioned gay marriage. But when that question came to the forefront, the marriage movement seemed to lose its progressive edge. Rather than replacing unjust laws, marriage advocates instead focused on further entrenching in American law the traditional definition of marriage while expanding the social benefits that go along with it. The law may be a tutor, but it is not strong enough to stitch back together a fraying social fabric.
... defense is the wrong mindset. And it was always the wrong mindset. In the middle of a vibrant marriage culture, the fundamental principles, goods, and practices of marriage are handed down and inculcated through transmission. We can only have traditional marriage if marriages are properly traditioned, and the failure to form and educate the young with respect to the importance of a traditional Christian sexual ethic left them on their own when it came to navigating their relationships with the opposite sex. Is it any wonder that those who had pseudo-marriages they called “relationships,” who chronically dated, and who had to find their own path through the courting phase are now in favor of inscribing such a preference-based mentality into the law?
He concludes by forcefully arguing the church should reconsider returning to the marriage movement’s roots: ending the no-fault divorce regime.
Jesus shocked His disciples when questioned by the Pharisees on permissible grounds for divorce by asserting both the God-mandated sanctity and inviolability of the marriage union except for cases of martial infidelity (Matt 19:1-10). While divorce was uncommon among the Jews, it was permitted by the Pharisees. Some teachers allowed divorce for literally any reason that displeased the husband — even poor cooking. (Rabbi Akiba who was a leading Rabbi of the latter 1st century and is referred to in the Talmud as Rosh la-Chachamim [Head of all the Sages], taught divorce was permissible "if he [the husband] found another fairer than she".) No-fault divorce was the understanding of many of the 1st-century, religious Jewish leaders on the subject and is light-years from Christ's teaching on marriage.
If we take Scripture's extraordinarily high view of marriage at face value, then we must push for a return to a system where divorce is granted only in the most extreme cases, holding couples to a two-year waiting period, and penalizing the party who breaks the marriage contract without cause. Unquestionably, the net result would be inducing people to think twice before jumping impulsively into (or out of) a marriage.
What good is a contract if it’s not enforceable? If the church is serious about really wanting to protect the institution of marriage in our culture, top priority should be reforming no-fault divorce laws instead of merely opposing the expansion of the institution of marriage to all couples.