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Gay Marriage: Why It Is Good for Gays, Good for Straights, and Good for America 1st Edition

3.8 out of 5 stars 31 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0805076332
ISBN-10: 0805076336
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Democracy in Decline? (A Journal of Democracy Book) by
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Marriage, when it's right (and usually when it's wrong), is a subject that stirs strong feelings. Gay marriage inspires its own set of passions, with opponents decrying it as a step that will undermine the very fabric of society while supporters posit it as an inevitable next stage in step-by-step acceptance of homosexuality by mainstream America. Appearing as the issue heats ups following President George W. Bush's call for a constitutional amendment that would block the gathering tide of gay nuptials, this polemic by Atlantic Monthly/National Journal writer Jonathan Rauch deftly walks a fine line, both personalizing the subject (Rauch is a gay man with a longtime lover and a lifelong wistful attitude about marriage) and addressing it with an intellectual poise informed by historical and philosophical perspectives. Rauch actually supports the steady-as-she-goes, state-by-state advancement of gay marriage, believing that "same sex marriage will work best when people accept and understand it, whereas a sudden national enactment, where it suddenly to happen, might spark a culture war on the order of the abortion battle." Might? It says a lot about Rauch's temperance that he doesn't forecast an inevitably fractious future for the nation while it sorts through the implications of gay weddings. There are more impassioned perspectives on the issue, but Rauch's positive approach advances the issue with a welcome coolheadedness that actually suits the controversy. This is, after all, a fight over the right of traditional outsiders to engage in an inherently conservative institution. --Steven Stolder

From Publishers Weekly

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.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Times Books; 1st edition (April 7, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805076336
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805076332
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.9 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,459,208 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Suddenly, there seems to be an avalanche of books about the gay-marriage issue appearing in America's bookstores. There is little doubt now that the controversy over granting legal marriages to gay persons is snowballing and has become the hot topic of the times. Jonathan Rauch's book is another contribution to the debate and, to his credit, he does provide a slightly different slant on the issue from what I've read in other books.

Rauch, a correspondent for The Atlantic Monthly, columnist for National Journal, and a writer-in-residence at the Brookings Institution, tends to de-emphasize the all-too-common "equal rights" argument and suggests, instead, that gay marriage would be good for American society because it would increase respect for the institution of marriage itself. To be clear about this, he doesn't dismiss the matter of equal rights but says "I wouldn't support same-sex marriage as a matter of equal rights if I thought it would wreck opposite-sex marriage."

One of the very basic questions regarding the question of marriage is, What is marriage for? He spends an entire chapter discussing this question, which sets the stage for his argument that gay marriage would be good, not only for gays, but for straights and for marriage in general. So, what is marriage for? Well, whatever else it is, he says, "it is a commitment to be there." I interpret him to mean that in this special relationship called "marriage," both parties to the compact promise to help and comfort one another when times are tough, in sickness and in health, etc., etc., which is, of course, a common understanding of what is, in fact, involved in a marriage -- at least ideally. He uses the term "prime-caregiver" and maintains that this is an essential condition of the marriage relationship.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Jonathan Rauch's new book, "Gay Marriage" is just what the country needs right now....less shouting and more reason. Rauch wisely frames his arguments regarding homosexuality in America around the issue of marriage as it has emerged in a rapid-fire way as the central social issue of the day.
De-mystifying most of the arguments made by conservatives, Rauch nonetheless is willing to be open and fair with them...to a point. His point, that same-sex marriage will be good for everyone is accurate, but as he also stresses it could have the possibility of a downside in its implementation. His premise reflects the old saying, "a rising tide lifts all boats".
Rauch encourages the reader to think about the issue which is good advice as it seems that so many in the United States more viscerally react to the idea of same-sex marriage than give it a mindful rendering. In his discussion regarding what some perceive to be an immature side to homosexuality I wish he had made note of one thing.....the fact that a few states allow heterosexual minors to marry... Hawaii and Georgia for instance, allow marriages at sixteen.
The author makes it clear that until gay marriage is accepted homosexuals will continue to be viewed as second-class citizens. Civil unions just won't do, he remarks, but adds that at least they are better than nothing. His beginning and ending chapters reflect what all gays feel and all straights should read....imagining a life without the possibility of marriage. Jonathan Rauch gives clarity to his arguments and a hope that marriage will someday be an option for all people. His book is not so much ahead of its time, but more appropriately right on time....and right on the mark.
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By A Customer on March 19, 2004
Format: Hardcover
The social battle over same sex marriage has become part of the presidential debate, as George "amendment happy" Bush and John "wuss union not marriage" Kerry argue the so-called cons. Vice President Cheney cannot look himself in the eyes while shaving as he hides behind his boss. Amongst the known leaders only Senator Gephardt shows courage supporting his daughter's rights.
Author Jonathan Rauch provides a timely powerful argument that gender is not the key. Instead if a couple fall in love why can't they marry and care for each other as they grow old together. Mr. Rauch says whether the couple consists of a man and a woman, a man and a man, or a woman and a woman, who cares. What should matter is the participants are willing adults wanting to form a permanent relationship that actually enhances the community.
Mr. Rauch logically defends GAY MARRIAGE as supporting family values and strengthening the meaning of marriage while making and extending the inclusiveness of basic rights. Easy to follow the critical thinking path laid out by the author in which he eloquently defends that if marriage is a sacred historical bond between a man and a woman, then why does so many break this "consecrated" act including social conservatives who scream for its sanctity. Those unsure of their stand will find Mr. Rauch makes quite a powerful pitch reversing the arguments of opponents by using the social conservative's logic to defend GAY MARRIAGE. For a well written historical similar venue involving interracial couples, see the well written TELL THE COURT I LOVE MY WIFE: RACE, MARRIAGE, AND LAW - AN AMERICAN HISTORY by Peter Wallenstein.
Harriet Klausner
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