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Thursday, February 07, 2013

Next to immigration reform, same-sex marriage is on the minds of people all across the US.  With the majority of Americans now in favor of it, it behooves those of us who are called upon to express our opinions to make sure we are properly informed so that we can properly inform others.

Two books in particular should be your reading list.  One is very scholarly, yet eminently readable.  The other is written in a more popular style, but also grounded in fact.  Together they offer much in the way of solid argumentation and avoid denigrating their opposition.

The first is unique.  In fact, it could easily have been two separate books, one dealing with philosophical, theological and sociological aspects of the issue and the other with the legal aspects.  It is Why Marriage Matters: America, Equality, and Gay People's Right to Marry, by Evan Wolfson.  All the critics agree that not only does this book inform, it is a great read, as well.  Wolfson places this issue as 
"one of the first important civil rights campaigns of the 21st century" and grounds support for it within the logic of the long-established protest traditions in U.S. history: abolition, the women's suffrage movement and the racial equality movements of the 1950s and '60s. (Publisher's Weekly)
I believe I have a well-informed body of knowledge in regard to these issues, but Wolfson upgraded my understanding in more than a few points.  Especially impressive is his expanded view of procreation and how it can never be used against gay marriage again.  What is it?  Well, I don't want to spoil it for you.

Here are the topics covered, chapter by chapter:
  • What is marriage?
  • Why now?
  • Will allowing gay couples to marry harm society?
  • Isn't marriage for procreation?
  • What about the children?
  • Isn't marriage a religious matter?
  • Why not use another word?
  • Will marriage in one state be honored in others?
  • Is marriage equality a question of civil rights?
  • Why does the freedom to marry matter to me?
If you only get one book on the subject, this should be it.  

The other book I recommend is Jonathan Rouch's, Gay Marriage: Why It Is Good for Gays, Good for Straights, and Good for America.  Rouch, who is gay and a conservative, writes from a much different perspective than Wolfson (who also is gay).  If find it quite interesting that the American Enterprise Institute approves of his work, likely because it promotes a state by state implementation rather than a Federal, top down approach.  

I recommend this book for one major reason:  He underscores two areas that Wolfson treats with less or no interest: The value it represents to society and the value it represents to (especially) gay men.  For the former, he shares what he believes will benefit "straight" society, and for the latter, along with Andrew Sullivan and others, argues that gays will adopt a less casual attitude toward sex as they ready themselves for marriage.  
If you keep an open mind, this book will provide you with solid information, especially his chapter on how straights will benefit.  It will also provide you with insight into the conservative mindset that is open to change.  Something very valuable, indeed.

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