My View: What's next for Anthony Weiner?

By Beverly Willett

For the Deseret News

Published: Tuesday, Sept. 17 2013 12:00 a.m. MDT

In this July 23, 2013 photo, Huma Abedin, alongside her husband, New York mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner, speaks during a news conference at the Gay Men's Health Crisis headquarters in New York. When Abedin’s name and face first started appearing in the media six years ago, lots of people couldn’t help but wonder what this beautiful, ambitious woman with high-fashion sense and a world-class rolodex saw in Anthony Weiner. That’s a question New Yorkers are asking themselves again.

Kathy Willens, File, Associated Press

Enlarge photo»

Now that he's lost the bid to become New York's mayor, what's next for Anthony Weiner?

A month ago the chief question on the public's mind was whether Weiner should quit the mayoral race. Despite dwindling odds, however, Weiner stayed the course. Does he have the same sticking power when it comes to his wife and family, when the campaign lights fade and he goes back to being ex-Congressman, stay-at-home dad?

I know it may sound preposterous to suggest that Weiner could be the one to walk out. After all, he's the wrongdoer. And Huma is sprinkled with Clinton fairy dust. Still, he wouldn't be the first politician to unload the wife and kids — and rise again. If he's capable of the indiscretions we already know about, do we really know where — or if — he's capable of drawing the line?

Isn't the impossible always possible in America? Catastrophes and injustices we never dreamed possible happen every day. Often, it's our own family that surprises us.

So Weiner leaving Huma Abedin? Not far-fetched at all. And the very real possibility raises questions about deeper problems that threaten our society.

Throughout New York's mayoral campaign, I admired Huma's courage to honor her vows even though her husband broke his. More than 10 years ago my own husband's infidelities caught me off guard, too. Full-blown betrayal by the man I'd entrusted my whole life with and chosen to father my children was soul and bone crushing. How dare he leave me.

Like Huma, I also chose to try and keep my family together. I grew up believing that marriage was the foundation on which everything else in our society was built. But my commitment to my vows wasn't enough. Ultimately, it was my ex-husband's choice to split the family that prevailed, not mine.

Although marriage contracts in our country require joint consent, the choice to divorce can be made unilaterally, placing the Anthony Weiners of this world on legal footing superior to that of the Humas. It gives preferential treatment to those who choose to break up the family over those who have honored their vows and choose to remain married. Approximately 80 percent of divorces in America are unilateral. Unless hers is a marriage of pure political convenience (hard to imagine given the pain we've seen on her face), one day Huma could be in for a lot more undeserved heartache. In divorce, Weiner could probably keep half the marital assets, too, and render Huma a part-time mom, forcing her to lose precious time with her son as he grows up.

With laws like this, it's no wonder Americans have lost their belief in the power of their vows and the courage to keep them. No surprise either that marriage rates are at an all-time low and divorce rates still twice what they were 40 years ago. In large numbers, Americans have lost the will and the strength to surmount even the simplest of relationship difficulties, let alone the big ones. The Weiner-sized ones.

I recognize that Huma Abedin isn't like the rest of us. If her marriage falls apart, it's unlikely she'll struggle with the financial burdens many single parents do. This in no way, however, mitigates the injustice inherent in our nationwide, no-fault divorce system. The choice to end her marriage should be Huma's and Huma's alone.

While Anthony Weiner's infidelities may be yesterday's news, the conversation need not stop there. Why not expand the dialogue, not only to the nature of commitment, but to a discourse on America's favorite subject — choice — and whose choice it ought to be when it comes to staying or leaving. Our nation's divorce laws and policies are antiquated, our marriages are in trouble and it's time we talked seriously about fixing them.

Beverly Willett is a writer, lawyer and co-chairwoman of the Coalition for Divorce Reform, living in New York City.

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