Two people meet and fall in love. They get married, they become upstanding members of their community, they care for each other when one falls ill, they grow old together. What's wrong with this picture? Nothing, says Jonathan Rauch, and that's the point. If the two people are of the same sex, why should this chain of events be any less desirable? Marriage is more than a bond between individuals, because it also links them to the community at large. Excluding some people from the prospect of marriage is not only harmful to them, it is also corrosive of the institution itself.
In the wake of recent state, federal, and Canadian court decisions, the controversy over gay marriage has reached a critical point in American political life, as skittish politicians rush in to stem what they see as a threat to marriage. But, as Jonathan Rauch shows in this compelling and wise book, the politicians have the whole thing backward. Rauch is one of America's most original and incisive social commentators, and here he explains why gay marriage is important—even crucial—to the health of marriage as an institution, grounding his argument in mainstream values. He outlines why marriage is vital to a well-functioning society, why marriage gains strength from being available to and encouraged for all citizens, why gay people will benefit from gay marriage, and why the institution of marriage will benefit as well. He then proceeds to demolish the arguments so often put forward by conservatives who call themselves defenders of marriage, showing them to be nothing of the sort. Finally, he looks at how gay marriage would work in the real world, as it bumps up against the realities of religion, social acceptance, the law, children, and even divorce.
At a time when marriage is losing ground to cohabitation and is in danger of becoming just another lifestyle choice, Rauch reaffirms that marriage is the gold standard for committed, serious relationships. Love, sex, and marriage go together—not just sometimes but always, not just for some people but for everyone. Gay marriage, he shows, is a "win-win-win" for strengthening the bonds that tie us and for remaining true to our national heritage of fairness and humaneness toward all.
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1What Is Marriage For?When I was six years old, I went with my family from Phoenix, where I was born and raised, to visit New York. I remember only a little about that trip, apart from a visit to the Statue of Liberty, but seeing Fiddler on the Roof on Broadway remains vivid. It was my first play and a great play to boot, and Tevye's dream frightened me half to death, but another, more tender scene also stayed with me.Tevye is a poor milkman in a Jewish shtetl (village) in czarist Russia. Life there is hardscrabble and traditional, and he is at first scandalized and then grudgingly