Copyright © 2010 by James Leonard Park
selected and reviewed by James Park,
existential philosopher and critic of traditional marriage.
They are arranged by quality, beginning with the best.
Red comments are the opinions of this reviewer.
Same-Sex Marriage and the Constitution
(Ithica, NY: Cornell UP,
(ISBN: 0-8014-3408-8; hardcover)
(ISBN: 0-8014-8429-4; paperback)
(Library of Congress call number: KF511.S77 1997)
of all the legal and constitutional implications
of attempting to prevent same-sex couples
from having legally-recognized marriages.
There is no compelling state interest in prohibiting same-sex marriages.
Contrary to the claims of opponents, same-race marriages were not sullied
when people of different races were permitted to marry each other.
not have the same rules about marriage
as any given church or religious tradition.
Some very liberal religious bodies now celebrate same-sex unions.
And some religions endorse polygamy.
If same-sex marriages were made legal by any government,
no religious organization would be compelled
to solemnize or recognize such unions.
couples the right to marry
is denying them the "equal protection of the laws".
The "Defense of Marriage Act" is unconstitutional
because it could only have been born out of
animosity toward a certain class of people.
The only people affected are homosexuals.
Usually the federal government has allowed states
to make their own domestic relations laws.
Now the "Defense of Marriage Act" has announced in advance
that only marriages between partners of different sexes
will be recognized by the federal government
—no matter what the states might do in the future.
consider a number of unintended consequences
of the "Defense of Marriage Act".
Could couples of the same sex married in one state
declare themselves unmarried
by moving to a non-recognition state?
Would child-support for a same-sex couple now divorced
be uncollectible in a non-recognition state?
Marriage Act" supports bigotry.
It tells young and old alike
that the federal government discriminates against same-sex couples.
What are people to think when they hear of such a law?
Some will think they are justified
in their own discriminatory behavior against the disfavored group.
This book is
technical in some places,
but it is a very important book.
Its arguments should have been considered
by the Congress and the President
before passing and signing the "Defense of Marriage Act" in 1996.
And now it should be read by all judges
called upon to rule on the constitutionally of that Act.
same-sex marriages are recognized in some form
—such as state laws permitting people to register as domestic partners—
this book will be seen as one that forged the way forward for legal reform.
It definitely presents only the legal arguments favoring same-sex marriage
—as any good lawyer would do.
Contrary views are only presented to be demolished.
It would be interesting to read another book
by an equally intelligent and knowledgeable person
defending such discrimination against same-sex couples.
2. E. J. Graff
What Is Marriage For?
(Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 1999)
(ISBN: 0-8070-4114-9; hardcover)
(Library of Congress call number: HQ734.G716 1999)
careful study and critique of the roots and branches
of the institution of marriage as known in the Western world.
When we review the early patterns of traditional marriage,
we see how far we have already come.
Marriage has changed and it will continue to change.
The author is a lesbian in a long-term committed relationship,
which could be a marriage if same-sex partners were permitted to marry.
discloses that there are
over 1,000 references to marriage (spouse, husband, wife, marriage, etc.)
in US federal laws and regulations.
Graff argues it would be easier to give
all these rights, responsibilities, and privileges to same-sex couples
(if they choose to marry) as a package
than to re-write all the laws one by one to grant all or most of these rights.
countries have already granted the right to marry
to same-sex couples, sometimes with a few exceptions such as
the right to be married in the state church,
the right to adopt children, or to get tax-supported fertility services.
But even such exceptions are likely to be abolished.
has not adopted same-sex unions
as readily as other advanced countries,
but even we are seeing the beginning of such rights in some states.
Wherever same-sex marriage has been allowed,
no noticeable or measurable effects
have been observed on heterosexual marriages.
Thus the federal "Defense of Marriage" Act is a complete misnomer.
It does not protect marriage in any sense.
It merely says that same-sex couples may not have their legal marriages
recognized by all states
if some states decide to grant such rights and responsibilities
without regard to the sexes of the partners.
created as a cultural institution
because of the belief that sex ought to be registered and regulated
—in large part to protect the rights of children
who often resulted from sexual intercourse.
But now even the most conservative religious groups
recognize that sex and marriage can be for non-procreative purposes.
If marriages can legitimately be directed toward sexual fulfillment,
then lesbians and gays also qualify.
to have laws protecting children.
But heterosexual marriage as the only context for raising children
has now largely become a pattern of the past.
Less than half of American children live with both of their biological parents.
Adoption is permitted by single people and increasingly by same-sex couples.
Children don't need fathers as much as they need
non-abusive, involved, caring parents.
And, of course, gay and lesbian people can be good parents.
If we are
about good parenting,
perhaps we should train and license all adults who wish to be parents.
Simply being a heterosexual couple
does not magically grant the ability to raise children.
Graff observes that many of her gay and lesbian friends are becoming parents
—by taking over the parenting of children born to one of them,
by adopting children already alive, or by artificial insemination.
Experience shows that these children of gay couples
do not become gay any more often than the general population.
And the quality of the parenting
shows the same range as for heterosexual couples.
the state have long struggled over who controls marriage.
In the West the state has basically won the battle to register marriages.
But some churches still insist that their regulations are paramount.
However, in ever-increasing numbers even heterosexual couples
are deciding to avoid legal, state-defined marriage
and are creating their own more personal and flexible relationships.
Middle Ages—when the Church controlled the
definition of marriage—
it sometimes took years to get a decision
about the validity of a particular purported 'marriage'.
In the meantime people kept having babies and changing their relationships.
To help clear up this chaos of private marriages,
beginning in the middle 1700s various governments in the West
established rules for the creation and registration of marriages.
it was hard to enforce rules about marriage,
so common-law marriage was also recognized:
If a couple held themselves out to the public as married,
by virtue of being together for a certain number of years,
legally they were the same as any other married couple.
which only recently recognized divorce and remarriage
because of the eternal opposition from the Roman Catholic Church,
people were ending their unsatisfactory marriages
and going on to create new couples and new groups of children
without involving either the state or the church.
movement in the United States
was very critical of the marriage laws of the time,
which granted all property rights
and control of the marriage to the husband.
These laws have largely been modified
to allow women to own property in their own names,
to run their own businesses,
to refuse to have sex with their husbands, to get divorced, etc.
Both in law and in practice,
couples are now able to create their own patterns of marriage.
And more and more couples are demi-married
because they do not fulfill all of the requirements
for an official legal marriage in their jurisdiction.
So why can't same-sex couples
define their committed relationships as marriage?
in marriage customs and laws
that have already happened,
it seems likely that soon same-sex couples will be allowed to marry.
Men and women are equal in most modern marriages.
The man no longer owns the woman.
So why should not two men or two women be permitted to marry?
she falls in love with women
as easily as most women fall in love with men.
So it seems entirely natural to her to insist on all the rights of marriage,
not some watered-down version called "domestic partnership".
history of marriage
could be complete without an account of divorce.
The Roman Catholic Church has long tried to enforce
the one-marriage-for-life rule.
But most civil laws now recognize the possibility of changing partners.
Each jurisdiction has its own rules and regulations for divorce,
many focused on the rights of children
and the economic rights of the former partners.
When same-sex partners are permitted to marry,
they also will need the protection of divorce law.
It reflects the deep commitment of two adult persons.
If so, two adult persons of the same sex can qualify.
3. Jonathan Rauch
Why It Is Good for Gays, Good for Straights, and Good for America
(New York: Times Books/Henry Holt,
2004) 207 pages
(ISBN: 0-8050-7633-6; hardcover)
(Library of Congress call number: HQ1034.U5R38 2004)
A gay man in a long-term
argues that gay marriage is good for everyone.
If marriage is good for heterosexual,
then it is good for same-sex couples as well.
The marriage-option will help gay couples to be more stable.
usually creates a living-together relationship
—a home to which the partners return to be with one another.
This is especially important to young people,
who might otherwise be doing self-destructive things with their lives.
Everyone benefits when people are encouraged to maintain stable relationships.
But, of course, it would be possible to
create committed relationships
without involving the enforcement power of the state or calling it "marriage".
Marriage creates a couple who will
be there for one another
whenever some problems or even crises arise.
For Rauch, marriage means a life-long care-giving commitment.
"In sickness and in health" is even more important than
raising children together.
Sometimes the commitment to care for each other in sickness
lasts longer than the marriage commitment itself:
Ex-spouses are sometimes found at the bedside.
In Rauch's view, marriage-like
commitments are not satisfactory.
Gays and lesbians should not accept domestic partnership or civil unions.
Society must be more deeply involved in their relationship.
Making a public commitment in front of friends and family
involves others in enforcing the vows.
Marriage is a bundle of benefits and
Some people might like to have only the benefits.
But a legal marriage makes sure that the responsibilities are also honored.
4. Gretcher A.
From This Day Forward:
Commitment, Marriage, and Family
in Lesbian and Gay Relationships
(New York: St. Martin's Press,
(Library of Congress call number: HQ76.3.U5S76 1999)
This book is
based on interviews with stable lesbian and gay couples.
It presents realistic portraits of how they live
and how they understand their commitment.
living-together couples consider themselves married,
especially if they have had a commitment ceremony.
A large part of this book is devoted to exploring
the pros and cons of a marriage-like ceremony for lesbian and gay couples.
Some couples readily embrace the complex traditions of 'getting married',
but other reject marriage because it reminds them too much
of the traditions and obligations of heterosexual marriage.
(Some have been married to other-sex partners in the past.)
Most of the couples expected their relationships to last until death,
but as a matter of fact, gay and lesbian marriages
last about as long as heterosexual marriages.
In general, the couples interviewed
had conventional views about love and commitment
—expectations very similar to heterosexual couples.
One major purpose of this book is to normalize same-sex relationships.
These couples seem no different from heterosexual couples.
However, one difference is that the ceremony of making a public commitment
usually takes place after the relationship has lasted a few years.
This is because so many gay and lesbian relationships do not last long.
But after the couple has been together for say 10 years,
they often find it meaningful to mark that anniversary with a ceremony,
which they call "holy union", "commitment ceremony", or "recommitment ceremony".
When the couple
is alienated from their families-of-origin
because of their sexual orientation,
the ceremony includes only other members of the gay and lesbian community.
But increasingly straight people (family and friends) are invited.
In some cases, the commitment ceremony finally convinced parents
that their children were not going to change into heterosexuals.
Everyone who reads
will be more favorably disposed toward same-sex marriage.
The people are real individuals,
with their own views of how to structure their relationships.
Some use the marriage-model and others do not.
5. Alfred Lees
Autobiographies of Gay Male Fidelity
(Binghamton, NY: Haworth Press,
(ISBN: 0-7890-0641-3; hardcover)
(ISBN: 1-56023-957-3; paperback)
(Library of Congress call number: HQ75.7.L66 1999)
Pro and Con: A Reader
(New York: Vintage/Random House,
(ISBN: 0-679-77637-0; paperback)
(Library of Congress call number: HQ76.25.F677 1997)
of previously-published short articles,
presenting all possible arguments concerning same-sex marriage.
The major themes: historical background—precedents for same-sex marriage;
religious debates; court rulings; political perspectives—right & left;
Defense of Marriage Act; affect on children;
slippery slope leading to other changes in marriage law;
why should gays want something that is not working for straights?
A comprehensive collection—but without any break-thru ideas.
This book will stand as a good record
of thinking about same-sex marriage up to 1997.
Gay and Lesbian Marriage
(New York: Anchor/Doubleday, 1998)
(ISBN: 0-385-48875-0; hardback)
(Library of Congress call number: HQ76.3.U5M354 1998)
on interviews with 40 couples
who had been together at least 9 years
in what they described as a happy relationship
—20 gay male couples and 20 lesbian couples.
The over-all impression is that these are quite ordinary relationships.
The major themes: how they met; starting the relationship;
differences in life-style and personality; open or closed relationship;
housekeeping together; levels of commitment; work and colleagues;
handling money; sex; dealing with families; raising children;
problems in the relationship; dealing with change;
being public about the relationship; aging; death;
what makes a happy relationship?
The book includes pictures of several of the couples interviewed.
8. Betty Berzon
The Intimacy Dance:
A Guide to Long-Term Success in Gay and Lesbian Relationships
(New York: Dutton, 1996)
(ISBN: 0-525-94234-3; hardcover)
(Library of Congress call number: HQ76.3.U5B467 1996)
A breezy, self-help
book for same-sex couples,
altho most of the advice would also help any couple.
Nothing profound of insightful.
But this is one of the first books that dealt with same-sex couples
as if this were a normal way to live.
Some of the issues:
jealousy; AIDS; public image; drug & alcohol abuse;
working thru personal conflicts.
Betty Berzon also shares stories from her own long-lasting lesbian love.
She practices psychotherapy, especially with gays, in Los Angeles.
additional books to add to this bibliography.
There will probably soon be an explosion
of new books on same-sex marriage.
Send your suggestions to James Park:
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