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Debating Same-Sex Marriage (Point/Counterpoint (Oxford Paperback)) Paperback – June 1, 2012

ISBN-13: 978-0199756315 ISBN-10: 0199756317 Edition: 1st
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Editorial Reviews


"Debating Same-Sex Marriage is an important book that lays bare the philosophical arguments for and against the legalization of same-sex marriage."
--Andre Archie, The American Conservative

"Why do the advocates of same-sex marriage want what they want? And why do defenders of traditional marriage, as uniting men with women to form families, resist such a change? One cannot do better for achieving clarity on such questions than by reading Debating Same-Sex Marriage, co-authored by John Corvino and Maggie Gallagher. Corvino, who teaches philosophy at Wayne State University in Michigan, and Gallagher, a co-founder of the National Organization for Marriage, have achieved something of real value in this book, confronting one another with (in general) an admirable degree of civility. Given the space to build arguments for their own views, and to respond to each other at length, Corvino and Gallagher provide what are probably the best and the most complete arguments on either side of this momentous debate." --Matthew J. Franck, Public Discourse

"The debate over whether to recognize same-sex relationships as marriages is among the most sensitive, difficult, and important in American public life. . . . John Corvino and Maggie Gallagher know this, which is why their arguments on marriage are so measured, reasonable, and persuasive -- despite their own profound disagreement. . . . The total effect is to give readers a sense of the strengths and weaknesses of the arguments, without the usual spike in blood pressure."--Ryan T. Anderson, National Review

"This is a valuable addition to the debate." --Publishers Weekly

"Philosopher John Corvino and National Organization for Marriage co-founder Maggie Gallagher spar spiritedly but respectfully on such topics as the purpose of marriage, the rationale for state recognition, the interests of children, and the consequences for religious freedom." --Matt Reynolds, Christianity Today

"Readers have two good advocates to examine what's at stake and how it might be spun. How will it turn out? Trusting in God, but using the last words in the book: 'We shall see.'" --National Catholic Register

"Debating Same-Sex Marriage's format is quite interesting -- and massively effective...It's like witnessing a live debate between these two lively characters...I highly recommend this to all -- if only for a manual on how to respectfully debate a member of the opposing viewpoint. Well done!" --Elizabeth Raymond, San Francisco Book Review

"With debate intensifying over same-sex marriage, this valuable exchange of views could not be more timely. Maggie Gallagher and John Corvino set forth their opposing positions clearly, eloquently, and with admirable lack of rancor."--Mary Ann Glendon, Learned Hand Professor of Law, Harvard University

"Maggie Gallagher is a hero to many of us who care about life, marriage and religious liberty. She is lucid, honest, compassionate, fearless and above all relentlessly reasonable in making the case for marriage as the union of husband and wife. Read this book to learn more about marriage, and about the views of millions of Americans who understand this is one fight we cannot duck."--Senator Rick Santorum

"John Corvino does a masterful job laying out the positive moral good in allowing same-sex couples to marry and exposing the weaknesses in arguments against such equality. With a mix of sharp philosophical analysis and wry humorous stories, Corvino makes clear why marriage need not be exclusively heterosexual in order to be good for couples, families and society. His remarkable collaboration with Maggie Gallagher to 'achieve disagreement' -- to uncover where they differ and why on allowing same-sex couples to marry -- helps move the conversation forward for all of us."--Chai Feldblum, Georgetown Law professor and founder of

"Maggie Gallagher is one of the most eloquent and influential voices for marriage in America today. Her arguments are carefully reasoned and often deeply moving. They have influenced politicians, judges, religious leaders, scholars, and a vast number of ordinary citizens who, at this time of uncertainty about the meaning and importance of marriage, are trying to decide what to think. Although her public witness for marriage has sometimes subjected her to venomous abuse, she does not respond in kind. Rather, she is exemplary in her willingness to engage those who see the marriage question differently with civility and grace."--Robert P. George, McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence, Princeton University

"John Corvino deserves a Gay Medal of Honor for the heroic work he has done in this book. John manages to keep his cool and offer thoughtful, engaging responses in the face of bad and sometimes infuriatingly insulting arguments. John is like your favorite college professor: he offers insight so cheerfully -- and at times so humorously -- that you can almost forget that he's tearing your term paper apart. In this case, the student is Maggie Gallagher and the 'term paper' is her flimsy, if passionately felt, rationale for denying gay and lesbian Americans their full civil equality. John makes an elegant, forceful, civil, and inspired case for equal rights under the law. Everyone interested in the debate over marriage equality -- particularly anyone who wishes to be armed with solid pro-marriage-equality arguments -- should buy and read this book."--Dan Savage, author of The Commitment: Love, Sex, Marriage and My Family, and founder of the It Gets Better Project

"Maggie Gallagher has been one of the staunchest advocates for traditional marriage in our lifetime, and she has now added what may well be the most cogent defense of that venerable institution yet written. Combining her philosophical training with real world experience, Gallagher articulates quite powerfully the societal risk of transforming marriage from an institution rooted in the biological nature of men and women and designed to foster the procreation and rearing of children, to one that is simply about adult relationships. A must read for everyone grappling with the policy debate currently underway, but particularly for those judges who think the policy decision is theirs alone to make."--Dr. John C. Eastman, Henry Salvatori Professor of Law & Community Service and former Dean, Chapman University School

"The best part of this valuable point-counterpoint is John Corvino's patient, clear, and logical dismantling of every argument and insinuation made by the leading opponents of letting loving and committed gay couples and their families share in something we all agree is good. Corvino convincingly shows that the couples, children, kin, and communities deserve the simple Golden Rule of fairness and the civic respect that are part of America's promise of the pursuit of happiness, liberty, and justice for all, and that ending their exclusion from marriage would harm no one. No wonder a majority of Americans -- including, notwithstanding Maggie Gallagher's arguments, 63% of American Catholics -- have opened their hearts and changed their minds to support the freedom to marry."--Evan Wolfson, President of Freedom to Marry and author of Why Marriage Matters

"Corvino grounds his argument in solid data, pointing out weaknesses in his opponent's correlative (rather than casual) data and circular logic.... This is a valuable addition to the debate."--Publishers Weekly

"Though I have been critical of the arguments presented by Gallagher in this book, I actually think that the book in general is actually an excellent one. It lays out the arguments on both sides of this issue clearly and concisely. Hence, Debating Same-Sex Marriage is an outstanding book not only for the general reader who wants to know more about this debate; it would also be perfect for a university course examining this issue."--Robert Scott Stewart, Metapsychology Online Reviews

About the Author

John Corvino is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Wayne State University.

Maggie Gallagher is co-founder of the National Organization for Marriage.

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Product Details

  • Series: Point/Counterpoint (Oxford Paperback)
  • Paperback: 296 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (June 1, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199756317
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199756315
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 0.9 x 5.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #674,165 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

62 of 67 people found the following review helpful By Dar on June 13, 2012
Format: Paperback
In reading the current reviews on "Debating Same-Sex Marriage" I felt compelled to respond. Many of the reviews and subsequent comments are biased toward whatever side the reviewer leans on the marriage-equality issue. While I understand that it is difficult to separate one's deep feelings on this topic from the impartiality needed to truly critique this book, I feel that not doing so is doing this book a huge disservice and will hurt it's deserved future potential for success.

Let me start by saying that I am clearly and definitely on one side of this issue. However, I feel that both Corvino and Gallagher should be commended for undertaking this project. They both knew that the other was going to do anything in their power to refute their arguments and they both have a "bring it on" attitude. I found it very interesting to read one's thoughts, then the comments on the other side. Where else can you read opposing views in one place like that? It is clear that while Corvino and Gallagher clearly disagree, they do respect each other and never stoop to "name calling". They give each other "props" when warranted and conduct this debate with the utmost maturity.

I feel much more educated on this topic thanks to this book. Not only am I more confident that I can speak about the topic for "my side" but that knowing the thoughts of the "other side" makes me even more armed with the knowledge to continue to strive for what I believe in. And I have a feeling that is the intent.
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31 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Sam Clemens on July 11, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I do not want to feign neutrality, so in this review I mostly address those who, like me, favor same-sex marriage going in. Do I understand precisely where I disagree with the other side now? Have my views changed? Is it worth reading?

I thoroughly enjoyed Corvino's opening essay. I found it very clear, mostly thorough, extremely well-written, periodically funny, and I felt the vast majority was logically rigorous. While most of his arguments are "emotionless", he spends a little time humanizing the issue by recounting a gay wedding and an interview with some gay dads--this would be a decent reason to loan the book to opponents of same-sex marriage even if they are unaffected by the arguments themselves. His essay is not perfect, however, and it missed some important points which I will bring up shortly.

To be honest, I found Gallagher's opening essay painful to read--though please hear me out to the end. Much of the pain was stylistic: I found it repetitive, frequently unclear, often incomplete, and also less engaging--Corvino is the better writer, though that doesn't necessarily mean he should win the debate. As for content, unlike Corvino, Gallagher spent very little time countering the other side's claims. Her essay would have been much more useful to me if she had spent some time doing so, since I was mostly unable to rebut my own objections to her points. My other main content complaint is that her most important and longest argument was completely ineffective on me: to her, "marriage equality" is just not "true" because "marriage" means male-female--that's the definition. To me, I do not share her Platonic ideal (and I don't believe many people do)--I fully expect social institutions to evolve over time and serve multiple roles as society continues to change.
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47 of 59 people found the following review helpful By Tim H. on June 9, 2012
Format: Paperback
Let me begin with saying that I actually read the book, unlike so many of the one-star reviewers so far. Ironically, giving such emotionally charged reviews while clearly never having actually read the book to consider the opposition's arguments fits the textbook definition of a bigot. Let's also not forget that half of this book was written by a proponent of same-sex marriage, so by giving it a one-star rating, one acknowledges that *both sides* were horrible in argumentation.

And if that wasn't enough, it becomes even more ironic given that this book was written so that the authors may "achieve disagreement." The book's purpose is to lay the cards out on the table so that one may see that there are good arguments underlying both positions. But evidently, one side of the debate is more interested in pulling the bigot card and shouting down the opposition than in any rational and respectful dialogue. But enough about the reviewers, on to the book itself.

In a point/counterpoint format, Corvino and Gallagher make the case for two competing views of marriage. Corvino, going first, follows people like Jonathan Rauch and defends the "conservative" case for same-sex marriage. Since marriage "promotes mutual lifelong caregiving in a way that no other institution does," (p.20) same-sex couples ought to be allowed to marry. To be sure, child welfare is an important aspect of marriage, but Corvino thinks that marriage is much more than this, hence why we recognize marriages between the infertile and elderly. Corvino is a sharp scholar who has done his homework: his opening essay engages with the arguments made elsewhere by Gallagher, along with other influential figures in the marriage debate such as Robert George and David Blankenhorn.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By zelda on June 15, 2012
Format: Paperback
This book undoubtedly helps further a productive debate about the legal status of same-sex marriage.
It's a great opportunity to read "the other side's" stance, succinctly and accessibly written, and will definitely help us all understand where we're coming from.
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