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Lobbying for divorce, little hope of success, conclusion

We are successfully avoiding a post about Kelsey Grammer's custody issues by talking about a law that is up for debate by elected officials about 8,000 miles away from Chicago. The Philippines is one of two countries in the world that prohibit divorce, and a handful of advocates are saying it's time that changed -- even in such a strong Roman Catholic culture.

Government records show that thousands of couples have filed for separation, citing infidelity, physical abuse and abandonment most frequently. The number of couples seeking some way out of their marriages has increased dramatically: from 4,520 in 2001 to 7,753 in 2007.

The proposed law would not allow Britney Spears marriages (three days of wedded bliss), nor would it allow "drive-through" divorces. Advertised as "divorce, Filipino-style," the law would require couples to be legally separated for at least five years before they could file for divorce.

Again, the Philippines is a Roman Catholic country, and the opposition to the bill echoes the church's. Church authorities in the country have called the bill "an orchestrated war against the Filipino family."

A retired archbishop is the spokesman for the anti-divorce camp, and he doesn't understand why Filipinos don't embrace their status as one of the last holdouts against, as he puts it, the destruction of the family.

Opponents may also wonder why the bill should resurface now. Aside from the Malta vote, the divorce proposal has laid dormant since 2005. Refiled twice since then, a congressional meeting this month was the first official attention the bill has garnered in years.

The bill's sponsors admit that their proposal will probably not go far. First, opponents have vowed to take their fight to the country's Supreme Court. And, second, the country's president admits that the measure is not a priority.

Another bill has earned the disdain and active opposition of church leaders: the Reproductive Health Bill. That bill would guarantee access to birth control information and methods. The church argues it is pro-abortion and yet another attack on the family.

The archbishop summed up the arguments against both bills in fairly plain terms: What's next, he asked, same-sex marriage?

Source: New York Times, "Philippines Stands All but Alone in Banning Divorce," Carlos H. Conde, 06/17/2011

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