In Mississippi, a person can file for divorce only on 12 grounds, which include adultery, “habitual drunkenness” and even impotency. However, one cannot seek legal separation if their spouse is abusive toward them.
It is an outdated law, one that the state is not willing to change.
Their reasoning: It could open “the floodgates” to more divorces.
To give some context, earlier this year, Mississippi State Sen. Sally Doty (R) introduced a bill to add domestic violence to the grounds for divorce available in the state. A number of people rallied in the favor of Senate Bill 2703, which was passed by the Mississippi Senate but the House Judiciary Committee shot it down.
“If there's a case of abuse, that person needs to have change of behavior and a serious change of heart," said Committee Chairman Andy Gipson(R-Braxton) who is also a Baptist minister. “Hopefully even in those cases restoration can happen.”
He insisted “habitual cruel and inhuman treatment” provision covers domestic abuse — despite the fact that Mississippi divorce law does not allow for emotional and financial abuse.
As disturbingly delusional and ill-informed as it sounded, what next came out of Gipson’s mouth was even worse.
“I think every couple in Mississippi would have grounds for divorce under that standard,” the Republican added.
It was a horrible attempt at normalizing domestic abuse, and if anything, it just highlighted the need for the said bill even more.
“I was shocked,” Wendy Mahoney, the executive director of the Mississippi Coalition against Domestic Violence, told the Associated Press. “All we were seeking with that bill was to assist and support survivors of domestic violence who were seeking a divorce — to at least lighten their load a little bit.”
Doty was just as surprised.
“A different chairman would probably have let that out of committee,” she said. “I have no explanation, but I think perhaps the chairman needs to give us an explanation.”
A similar attempt to add domestic abuse as grounds for divorce died in the Mississippi Senate last year as well.
However, Doty is not backing down. She is going to introduce the same bill again the next year.