GAY MARRIAGE: Why It Is Good for Gays, Good for Straights, and Good for America

Jonathan Rauch, Author . Times $22 (207p) ISBN 978-0-8050-7633-2

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)

Reviewed on: 03/15/2004
Release date: 04/01/2004
Genre: Nonfiction
Open Ebook - 224 pages - 978-1-4299-3674-3
Paperback - 224 pages - 978-0-8050-7815-2
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