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Gay Marriage
Why It Is Good for Gays, Good for Straights, and Good for America
Posted March 31, 2004

By Jonathan Rauch
Published by Times Books
May 2004; $22.00US/$32.95CAN; 0-8050-7633-6

A passionate and provocative case for gay marriage as 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, 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, why straight 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 together and for remaining true to our national heritage of fairness and humaneness toward all.

Author, Jonathan Rauch is a correspondent for The Atlantic Monthly, a senior writer and columnist for National Journal, and a writer in residence at the Brookings Institution. He is the author of several previous books on public policy, culture, and economics, including, most recently, Government's End: Why Washington Stopped Working. His work has appeared in The New Republic, The Economist, Harper's, Reason, Fortune, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, and Slate, among other publications. He is vice president of the Independent Gay Forum and lives outside Washington, D.C.

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