Status Symbol

Marriage at the Crossroads
Law, Policy, and the Brave New World of Twenty-First-Century Families
Edited by Marsha Garrison and Elizabeth S. Scott
Cambridge University Press, $34.99, 344 pp.

Scholars who study marriage have generally focused on describing how broad changes in our society have led to changes in that institution. Several contributors to Marriage at the Crossroads take this approach, providing a useful if familiar litany of economic, cultural, and legal changes that have altered the meaning and purpose of marriage over recent decades. But what makes this volume fresh and compelling, as I read it, is the story of how marriage itself is reshaping society. It is doing so in two ways: marriage is integrating gay and lesbian Americans into mainstream society; and marriage is fracturing American society along class and educational lines and contributing to rising economic inequality.

Participation in marriage is now legal for gays and lesbians in ten states, and the movement for marriage equality in both federal and state law is gaining support. For many advocates, the inclusion of same-sex couples into marriage represents full social acceptance. Marriage, they argue, will not only...

To read the rest of this article please login or become a subscriber.

About the Author

Barbara Dafoe Whitehead, author of The Divorce Culture (Knopf), directs the Center for Thrift and Generosity at the Institute for American Values.