Jonathan Rauch has written a characteristically generous, thoughtful, and engaging review of David Blankenhorn's recent book arguing against gay marriage, The Future of Marriage. Rauch writes:
[Blankenhorn] wants to lift the gay-marriage debate from its isolation in the mud-pit of the partisan culture wars and place it within a larger theory of marriage. He also wants to put an end to the days when gay-marriage advocates can say that there is no serious case against gay marriage. In both respects, he succeeds.
Blankenhorn has painted himself into a corner, one where the American public will never join him. If, as he insists, we cannot sustainably mix and match values and policies--combine adult individualism with devoted parenthood, for example, or conjoin same-sex marriage with measures to reduce divorce--then we must choose whether to move in the direction of the Netherlands or Saudi Arabia. I have no doubt which way the public would go. And should.
In fact, however, the public will reject the choice Blankenhorn offers as a false one; and, again, the public will be right. . . . People in countries recognizing same-sex unions are more accepting of co-habitation and single parenthood than Blankenhorn and I would prefer; but their project is not to reject marriage, except perhaps on Blankenhorn's reductionist account of it, but to blend and balance it with other values of liberal individualism.
States are experimenting with reforms to strengthen marriage and reduce unnecessary divorce, and the proportion of African-American children living in two-parent, married-couple homes has stabilized or increased. Those modest but heartening improvements come at precisely the time when gay Americans in the millions--the ordinary folks, not the academicians--have discovered and embraced marriage and family after years of alienation from both.
. . . From his new book, I've learned that the public's view of both marriage and society is nonetheless richer, wiser, and more humane than David Blankenhorn's--and possibly, for that matter, than my own. Which gives me hope that, whatever the experts say the real purpose of marriage is or is not, the public can ultimately get it right.
For my critique of Blankenhorn's argument, see here.