Gay Marriage

Jonathan Rauch

     ... reporter, author and gay marriage advocate.  Author of Gay Marriage: Why It Is Good for Gays, Good for Straights, and Good for America, Mr. Rauch's previous books have been on public policy, culture and economics. Also a correspondent for The Atlantic Monthly and a senior writer for the prestigious National Journal, Mr. Rauch reports for a wide range of major publications and is writer in resident at the Brookings Institution. He has served as vice president of the Independent Gay Forum.

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Marriage is unique, Jonathan Rauch says. After decades studying what he calls the bedrock of civilization, he wants to keep it that way. That's why Mr. Rauch champions gay marriage as the trifecta of social policy: a win-win-win which is good for gays, good for straights and good for America. The country, he asserts, does not suffer from too much marriage but too little.

Banning marriage, he says, means you're going to get a lot of sex in the bushes. What he wants to move toward is a culture of responsibility. When one is married, he says, the rest of the community -- which is always the third party to every marriage -- knows what you've promised to do. You get the status, the benefits and the obligations that go with those promises you vow to uphold.

At the core of what America professes is the idea of "...the pursuit of happiness," Mr. Rauch points out. Nothing, he is convinced, is more essential to this idea than the ability to choose someone, marry them, and make a home and a family with them. This is so essential, he says, that extending this fundamental opportunity to all Americans -- not locking anybody out -- is part of the nation's maturation.

Then there are the children to consider, he notes. There is no doubt that as successful as single-parent households can be, he believes that creating a stable, secure environment for children is one of the ways in which marriage is irreplaceable.

There are others.

Mr. Rauch puts marriage at the center of a culture of responsibility. Oddly enough, he finds that getting people to accept this notion of gay responsibility is harder than getting them to accept gay rights. Anti-discrimination laws are fine with a lot of people, he says, but they stop short of three hot spots that remain: child-rearing, serving the nation in the military and marriage. All three, he says, involve declaring that gay people are of sufficient standing in their nation and their community, responsible enough, to look after other people, to shoulder these fundamental burdens. Of these, he believes, marriage is the most fundamental of all.

Mr. Rauch says he treasures marriage so much that he wants to get gay marriage right. Put America's great experiment in democracy to work, let each state make it's own decision about this kind of marriage, just as states make all the rest of our domestic laws. One state and 5 (or more) Supreme Court judges should not make a decision for all the other states, he believes, any more than an Amendment to the Constitution should change where domestic law has been made since before the country was a nation at what is now the state level.

Gay marriage, Mr. Rauch concludes, is not really about sex or gender, it's about what he calls "coupledom." Ultimately, it's not about the gender of the person we love, he insists, it's about the fact that the human heart needs marriage. "To have and to hold, for better or worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, ‘'til death do us part" -- that's what matters.

[This Program was recorded April 20, 2004, in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.]

Conversation 1

Too few marriages are the problem in America, Jonathan Rauch, tells Paula Gordon and Bill Russell, not too many -- explaining why gay marriages are civilization's bedrock and good for everyone.


Conversation 2

Marriage is never simply a private contract between 2 individuals, the community is always an invisible third partner Mr. Rauch says, and explains.  It is because he treasures marriage and takes it very seriously, he says, that he wants individual States to be test beds for allowing gay marriages -- the State level is where America's "domestic" law has always been made -- instead of one state and 5 judges deciding this fundamental question for the whole country.


Conversation 3

Civil union and marriage are not the same, Mr. Rauch says, and expands on the obligations that go with marriage. Creating alternatives is not good for marriage, he says forcefully and explains his position. Getting people to accept the notion of gay responsibility turns out to be harder than getting them to accept gay rights, he says, then champions a culture of responsibility where one can turn love into life.


Conversation 4

Holding America to the promise of its Declaration of Independence, Mr. Rauch says nothing is more essential to the "pursuit of happiness" than the ability to choose someone, marry them and make a home and family with them. Part of America's maturation is to extend this opportunity to all, he believes. Marriage alone makes people kin, Mr. Rauch says, convinced that marriage is how you build a home. He expands on how unique he believes marriage is, certain that while single-parent households can be successful, marriage is irreplaceable for children.


Conversation 5

Having since the 1980s written about marriage in general, Mr. Rauch applies what he learned to what he calls the trifecta of public policy: gay marriage -- a win-win-win for everyone: gay people, straight people and America itself. Mr. Rauch applauds real progress in American where the public is deeply engaged in a discussion of gay marriage, after many centuries of persecution and sweeping homosexuality under the rug.


Conversation 6

Expanding the conversation to include homosexual women, Mr. Rauch concludes that gay marriage is not about sex or gender -- it's important because the human heart needs marriage.



Jonathan Rauch's consideration on the institution of marriage in present day America is interesting, whatever conclusions one may draw.  We thank him for broadening this horizon for us all.

Related Links:

Gay Marriage:  Why It Is Good for Gays, Good for Straights, and Good for America is published by Times Books/Henry Holt and Company.

In Out for Good, Dudley Clendinen tells the story of the struggle for gay rights beginning with the 1969 Stonewall Rebellion..

Bishop John Shelby Spong (Ret.) has struggled for years within the Episcopal Church to assure equal treatment for all people.

Janis Ian is a famous musician and gay. Both have deeply affected her life.

Both Mary Ann Mason and Randall Kennedy are cited in this program.

Essayist and author Richard Rodriguez is also gay.  He characterizes Americans as “Brown” (the title of one of his books) and says that sex is at the heart of brown.  Americans, he adds, are uncomfortable with the fact that people fall in love.

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