State of the unions

What is the significance of the New York Times’s decision (September 1) to include "public celebrations of commitment by gay and lesbian couples" in its Sunday "Weddings" pages? For many, the question is Why did it take the Times so long to acknowledge this social reality? For others, the decision was a predictable extension of the antitraditionalist, even libertarian moral biases evident on the paper’s editorial pages and thinly disguised in its coverage of culture, politics, and the arts. The Times has made little secret of the fact that it considers the full civic enfranchisement of homosexual people, as homosexual people, among the most pressing civil rights issues.

News of the Times’s decision was greeted with élan by Rebecca Mead on the "Comment" pages of the New Yorker (September 2). "The Times’s same-sex wedding announcements will be the supreme expression of the contemporary ideal of marriage as a grand, individualistic romance detached from society’s strictures-the ideal to which contemporary Americans are wedded, for better or worse," she wrote. "Gay marriage is the ultimate celebration of individualism." In the modern age, the "religious regulation of marriage has dwindled into benign ceremonial irrelevance," Mead added, as has the idea that marriage is indispensable for the rearing of children.

It is possible to trace this evolution in the ideal of marriage-from rigid social contract to a...

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