Goods in Conflict

The Future of Marriage
David Blankenhorn
Encounter Books, $25.95, 260 pp.

Just the other day, it seems, same-sex marriage was unthinkable—or even if thinkable, nonexistent, its anthropological and historical evidence rare, fragmentary, and usually explainable in other terms. Now, however, gay couples are being married or civilly united in several European countries and the United States, and criticism of same-sex marriage has become virtually unthinkable for Americans of a liberal disposition. Advocates of same-sex marriage have thoroughly appropriated the rhetoric of civil rights, nondiscrimination, and liberty, leaving others without a vocabulary to express their reservations. Caught between vociferous advocates who see themselves as successors to the civil-rights movement of the 1960s (and who tend to equate opposition with homophobia), and equally adamant opponents from the religious Right, many people of good will don’t know what to say about their unease over the rapid pace of change. They don’t know how to express their reservations in a way that will prevent accusations of bigotry.

The value of David Blankenhorn’s The Future of Marriage lies less in his debatable argument against legal recognition of same-sex marriage than in his reorientation of the debate itself, one which provides a much-needed vocabulary for principled critique and disagreement. Blankenhorn shows...

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