The left-wing media think the new speaker of the House is “a sinister little creep” with “strong incel energy.” Why? He is happily married and intends to remain so.
Speaker of the House Mike Johnson and his wife, Kelly, have a covenant marriage, not unlike millions of Christians all over the world, the only difference perhaps being that theirs is recognized in law. Louisiana is one of the few states (Arizona and Arkansas are the other two) where couples can enter a legally binding marriage that is not subject to the typical no-fault divorce laws.
In 2001, 15 years before Johnson was first elected to Congress, he and Kelly happened to be one of two couples whom “Good Morning America” found to interview about their covenant marriages. In response to a question from host Diane Sawyer, Kelly said, “From a woman’s perspective … I wanted to know it was for a lifetime, and it gives me such peace and security.” She implied, in essence, that marriage — real, covenantal marriage — makes sex safe. And, of course, she is not wrong.
Marriage, properly regarded, does make sex safe. When a couple enters the marriage covenant, they enter something that already existed, that is foundational to every society. In it, something real and powerful, sex — with its ability to wreck relationships and make unwanted babies — is acknowledged and put to good use to form a family.
However, by 2001, no-fault divorce was the law of the land almost everywhere (except New York). No-fault divorce, which purported to address legitimate issues such as abuse, allows one or both spouses to end the marriage with or without cause, simply because they do not want to be married anymore. It has reduced marriage in America to a piece of paper and demolished the authority and stability of the family.
States must again change their marriage laws to allow only at-fault divorce. This would regard marriage properly as a lifelong commitment dissoluble only by death or in the very narrow and grievous instances of moral failure. Such laws rightly penalize, socially and financially, the at-fault spouse for breaking the marital covenant for reasons of adultery, physical harm, or desertion. Just marriage laws would prioritize the good of children and the innocent party and restore the authority and stability of the family.
The main argument for no-fault divorce is an increase in the bargaining power of the dissatisfied party. The mere threat of divorce, we are told, can improve the behavior of the offending spouse. The children of the marriage are not factored into the equation, or when they are, the adverse effects are chalked up to their experience of a high-conflict marriage before the actual divorce.
The true legacy of no-fault divorce is far from benign. By every determination of well-being, whether social, economic, emotional, or physical health, in every instance, divorce hurts kids. Sociologists Sara McLanahan and Gary Sandefur have found that 31 percent of kids with divorced parents dropped out of high school, compared to 13 percent of children from intact families; 33 percent of girls whose parents divorced became teen mothers, compared to 11 percent of girls from intact families; and 11 percent of boys who come from divorced families end up going to jail before the age of 32, compared to 5 percent of boys who come from intact homes. Jonathan Gruber, a professor of economics at MIT, finds kids of divorced parents are “less well educated, have lower family incomes, marry earlier but separate more often, and have higher odds of adult suicide.”
Parental divorce is considered an adverse childhood experience (ACE). An ACE is usually described as a traumatic event that can have negative and lasting effects. Little wonder divorce doubles kids’ chances of having problems with their “gut, skin, nervous system, genitals, and urinary organs.” Relationally, children of divorce whose parents never remarried are 45 percent more likely to end their own marriages but are 91 percent more likely to divorce when their divorced parents remarry another spouse.
And for adults, divorce does not actually fix much. Generally speaking, you will not, in fact, be happier. A 2002 report from the Institute for American Values found that two-thirds of unhappily married adults who did not divorce reported happier marriages five years later. Meanwhile, the unhappy couples who divorced were no happier, on average, than those who stayed together. Staying married then is perhaps the wisest and best thing a couple can do not only for themselves, but certainly for their children, and the entire society.
Marriage is the fundamental institution anchoring our identity and our society. Without it, individuals and society became unmoored. This is not to say that everyone everywhere must be married. It is to say that a society with many strong, healthy marriages is strong and healthy enough to support everyone else regardless of life circumstances. As Carl Trueman writes in his book Strange New World, traditionally religion, family, and nation were the three fundamental external anchors of identity. As the institutions of marriage and family collapse, humans must search for or create their identities with no objective way of determining what is true and real.
The sexual revolution grew from more than the seed of no-fault divorce. The advent of the birth control pill and the legalization of abortion under Roe were also major fault lines. But no-fault divorce has dismantled marriage and, in so doing, has played a critical part in the civilizational unmooring we face now.
The law is a teacher. If laws become stumbling blocks to rearing children who are able to participate valuably in society and who are themselves capable of raising children, then the law is not functioning correctly, and it is teaching the wrong things. American marriage laws are dysfunctional and a legal undermining of the family structure.
We have cut the branch upon which we sit and eroded the stability and authority of the family. The family is the most fundamental institution of society, and we must restore laws that teach that sex is a public act done in private. Properly regarded marriage is a covenant, and American law should regard it as such again by eliminating no-fault divorce.