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.
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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 StolderAbout the Author:
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.
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