Synopses & Reviews
A leading Washington journalist argues that gay marriage is the best way to preserve and protect society's most essential institution
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; it also links them to the community at large. Excluding some people from the prospect of marriage not only is harmful to them, but is also corrosive of the institution itself.
The controversy over gay marriage has reached a critical point in American political life as liberals and conservatives have begun to mobilize around this issue, pro and con. But no one has come forward with a compelling, comprehensive, and readable case for gay marriage-until now.
Jonathan Rauch, one of our most original and incisive social commentators, has written a clear and honest manifesto explaining why gay marriage is important-even crucial-to the health of marriage in America today. Rauch grounds his argument in commonsense, mainstream values and confronting the social conservatives on their own turf. Gay marriage, he shows, is a "win-win-win" for strengthening the bonds that tie us together and for remaining true to our national heritage of fairness and humaneness toward all.
"In this highly readable but rarely innovative polemic, Atlantic Monthly correspondent and National Journal columnist Rauch argues that the great civilizing institution' would inevitably ennoble gay relationships; providing access to marriage would give them access to 'a better kind of love.' Such sallies will leave some readers wondering whether 'better,' for Rauch, really means 'straight'; 'If I could have designed myself in the womb,' writes Rauch (who is openly gay) elsewhere, 'I would have chosen to be heterosexual.' Reporting such fantasies may win Rauch points for honesty, but they don't do much for his argument, other than to allow straights who support equal rights but are uneasy with homosexuality itself to identify with his position more easily. Such mixed signals make for a decidedly mixed bag. (Apr. 7)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"[Rauch's] discussion is enough to reassure anyone not already dug in against gay marriage. Even more important, it puts on display his arguing style, an appealing combination of prosecutorial logic and gentlemanly forbearance. Rauch strains to find merit even in the positions of intemperate talk-show hosts. He neither twists words nor tweaks statistics. He takes pains not to leave angles unexamined." Christopher Caldwell, The New York Times
"Rauch's impressive book is as enthusiastic an encomium to marriage as anyone, gay or straight, could write." David J. Garrow, The Washington Post
"Maybe the news is saturated with the gay-marriage question, but more notice ought to be paid to this extraordinary book. Rauch takes on not the grand constitutional theories of same-sex unions but the practicalities: how will the daily life of communities be affected, will people be happier? He argues convincingly that not only will gay men and lesbians be happier with same-sex marriage granted legal status, practically everybody else will be happier, too. Rauch's conception that society as a whole will be served by gay marriage is the missing piece of the puzzle, a utilitarian argument that there's something in this issue for the heterosexual mainstream too a more harmonious social sphere. Gay Marriage is an excellent, urgent book." Gregg Easterbrook, The New Republic
"Thoughtful and convincingly argued . . . Rauch's impressive book is as enthusiastic an encomium to marriage as anyone, gay or straight, could write."
—David J. Garrow, The Washington Post Book World
In May 2004, gay marriage became legal in Massachusetts, but it remains a divisive and contentious issue across America. As liberals and conservatives mobilize around this issue, no one has come forward with a more compelling, comprehensive, and readable case for gay marriage than Jonathan Rauch. In this book, he puts forward a clear and honest manifesto explaining why gay marriage is important—even crucial—to the health of marriage in America today, grounding his argument in commonsense, mainstream values and confronting social conservatives on their own turf. Marriage, he observes, is more than a bond between individuals; it also links them to the community at large. Excluding some people from the prospect of marriage not only is harmful to them but also is corrosive of the institution itself.
Gay marriage, he shows, is a "win-win-win" for strengthening the bonds that tie us together and for remaining true to our national heritage of fairness and humaneness toward all.
About the Author
is a correspondent for The Atlantic Monthly
and a senior writer and columnist for National Journal
. He is the author of several books on public policy, culture, and economics, including most recently Government's End: Why Washington Stopped Working
. He is a writer in residence at the Brookings Institution, and his work has appeared in The New Republic, The Economist, Harper's, Fortune, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal
, and Slate
, among other publications. He lives outside Washington, D.C.