Cover image for Gay marriage : why it is good for gays, good for straights, and good for America
Gay marriage : why it is good for gays, good for straights, and good for America
Rauch, Jonathan, 1960-
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Times Books/Henry Holt and Co., [2004]

Physical Description:
207 pages ; 22 cm
General Note:
Includes index.
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HQ1034.U5 R38 2004 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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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.

Author Notes

Jonathan Rauch 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.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

With gay marriage looming as the next major revision of the way Americans have always done things, Rauch calmly and considerately explains why it should be welcomed, but not too quickly. The reason gay marriage is on the national agenda is that liberal democracy in the U.S. has developed so that equality of treatment by the law can be denied only for very persuasive reasons. That two persons are of the same sex decreasingly seems a good reason for forbidding them to marry. Moreover, there are good reasons for letting them marry. Marriage would domesticate young gays (especially males) as it already does young nongays; extend society's formal recognition of love relationships to all citizens, making it consistent (whereas now it implies that gays can't bond in love); and bolster the value of marriage against civil unions and other less-than-marital (and, Rauch maintains, much less desirable) forms of conjugal union--and these are just the most obvious of the benefits. Rauch's pro arguments are less familiar than the con arguments he later demolishes with reason, not rhetoric, and they occupy his most interesting pages. Not that there are any dull ones. Perhaps surprisingly, Rauch concedes that the conception of male-female marriage as ordained by God is the strongest, most honorable position against gay marriage--but secular states may not prefer it. Another surprise, perhaps, is his strong advocacy for letting the states decide about gay marriage, one by one. That is the old, federal way of deciding matters that affect every citizen, intrinsically more democratic than Supreme Court fiats, and as a traditional American liberal, Rauch thinks it is definitely the right way. This respectful, hopeful book is persuasive literature at its best. --Ray Olson Copyright 2004 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

In this highly readable but rarely innovative polemic, Atlantic Monthly correspondent and National Journal columnist Rauch argues that the gradual legalization of gay marriage can only strengthen the institution it wishes to expand. He argues that pervasive separate-but-equal strategies would weaken the institution of marriage more than marriage for all, because of the inevitable appeal of "marriage-lite" to heterosexual couples who might otherwise marry. (A recent New York Times article documents precisely that phenomenon in France.) Yet for Rauch, currently a writer-in-residence at the Brookings Institution, the most compelling argument for gay marriage is moral, and only tangentially related to the principle of granting citizens equal rights under the law. Echoing recent arguments by Andrew Sullivan and David Brooks, Rauch defends gay marriage as the only social reform that can save gays from what he characterizes as the adolescent and unfulfilling lifestyle that love and sex outside of marriage has forced upon same-sex couples for centuries. Allowing gays to participate in "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) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Marriage is a uniquely powerful institution that would bring stability to gays, and this stability would benefit all of society. This is the central point in Rauch's provocative book in favor of gay marriage. A writer for the Atlantic Monthly and National Journal, Rauch (Government's End: Why Washington Stopped Working) believes that civil unions are unacceptable because they do not bring the community support of marriage, and the possibility of civil unions would weaken marriage by making it just one option among several. Rauch addresses several of the opposition's arguments, e.g., that marriage is for procreation and that gay marriage will lead to polygamous marriage and beyond. Though he has a remarkably rosy view of marriage and lesbians are largely absent from the discussion, this is a timely and readable book that will provoke people on both sides of the argument. In a much more academic work, Mallon (social work, Hunter Coll.; Let's Get This Straight) examines the experiences of 20 gay men from New York and Los Angeles who became fathers without a female coparent in the 1980s. Mallon conducted extensive interviews with the men, discussing how they got their children, how they created a family, the responses of the community, and the implications of gay male parenthood for society. He illustrates his points with verbatim excerpts from the interviews. Interviewing men who became fathers so long ago allows Mallon to present the long view of raising children, but it leaves one wondering how things might be different for gay men becoming fathers today. The subject of gay fathers is rarely studied and has implications for child services. With the topic of gay marriage on so many minds lately, Rauch's book is recommended for all libraries. The interviews and extensive bibliography make Mallon's a good purchase for academic libraries.-Debra Moore, Cerritos Coll., Norwalk, CA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



From G ay Marriage : Gay marriage is at bottom not so much a civil rights issue as a civil responsibility issue. If the first "homosexual agenda" focused on gay rights--the right to have sex, the right to walk the streets in safety, the right to keep a job--the second focuses on gay responsibilities: marriage, military service, the rearing and mentoring of the young. If the rights agenda asked for protections, the responsibility agenda asks for obligations. Could that be why it arouses such fierce resistance? Oddly--I'd never have guessed--the responsibility agenda seems to meet stiffer resistance from much of straight America than the rights agenda ever did. At bottom hardly anyone wants to see homosexuals harassed, but treating them as grown-ups seems harder to accept. America has taken mighty strides to end homosexual victimhood, a fact for which I will always be grateful. What remains is to close the gap between victimhood and adulthood. Excerpted from Gay Marriage: Why It Is Good for Gays, Good for Straights, and Good for America by Jonathan Rauch All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Table of Contents

Introduction: The Imagination Gapp. 1
1. What Is Marriage For?p. 11
2. Accept No Substitutesp. 29
3. How Gays Will Benefitp. 55
4. How Straights Will Benefitp. 72
5. How Marriage Will Benefitp. 86
6. Married, Without Childrenp. 104
7. Anything Goesp. 123
8. Men Behaving Badlyp. 138
9. The Debt to Traditionp. 159
10. Getting It Rightp. 172
11. A Golden Anniversaryp. 192
Indexp. 197