Copyright © 2018 by James Leonard Park

    The following books were selected and reviewed by James Park.
They are arranged by quality, beginning with the best.
Red comments are the opinions of this reviewer.

1. Mark Strasser

Legally Wed:

Same-Sex Marriage and the Constitution

(Ithica, NY: Cornell UP, 1997)                           241 pages
(ISBN: 0-8014-3408-8; hardcover)
(ISBN: 0-8014-8429-4; paperback)
(Library of Congress call number: KF511.S77 1997)

     An examination 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.

     The state need 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.

     Denying same-sex 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 arisen from
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.

     Congress did not 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?

     The "Defense of 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 rather 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.

     Eventually, when 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 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)

     This book is a 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.

     A computer search discloses that there are
over 1,000 references to marriage (spouse, husband, wife, marriage, etc.)
in U.S. federal laws and regulations.
Graff argues it would be easier to give
all these rights, responsibilities, & 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.

     Many Scandinavian 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.

     The United States 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.

     Marriage was originally 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.

     Every society ought 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 concerned 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 church and 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.

     In the Middle Ageswhen 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.

     In frontier America, 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.

     In places like Ireland,
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.

     The first feminist 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?

     Given all the changes 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?

     Graff says that 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".

     No 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.

     What is marriage for?
It reflects the deep commitment of two adult persons.
If so, two adult persons of the same sex can qualify.

3. Jonathan Rauch

Gay Marriage:
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 relationship
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.

    Marriage 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 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 burdens.
Some people might like to have only the benefits.
But a legal marriage enforces the responsibilities as well.

    A proliferation of different types of 'marriage'
might create confusion and even chaos
when deciding who gets what benefits and burdens.
For example, would each private company
have to decide just who is married enough
to qualify for shared health-care benefits?
If informal commitments qualify as some kind of 'marriage',
what will prevent health-care fraud?
But if marriage is a legal, registered, indisputable fact,
then all companies would be required to treat all married couples alike.
And all levels of government would have to do the same:
The benefits extended to spouses and ex-spouses
and the court decrees for divorced couples
would apply to all couples who were once legally married.

    Even under the old rules, some senior-citizen couples
decided to remain unmarried
because that was better for their social security benefits.
When will the Social Security Administration recognize same-sex marriages
that are now validated by some states?

    When there are no standards universally accepted
for something like domestic partnership,

each organization giving benefits to domestic partners
will have to define what a domestic partnership must include.
Must the partners be living together for six consecutive months?
We note the married couples are not required to live together,
so why should domestic partners be required to share the same dwelling?
Can one partner unilaterally declare
that the domestic partnership has been dissolved?
How closely must they intermingle their finances?
Will some divorce-like proceeding in court be required
to bring an end to a domestic partnership or civil union?

    When there are different standards and criteria
for various kinds of alternatives to conventional marriage,
then some government programs and private employers
will exclude some couples as not married enough.
For example, who would qualify as family or as a survivor?
States that allow same-sex marriage
presumably allow these couples to file joint income-tax forms.
But the same 'married people' must file separate federal returns.
How should they sort out this paperwork and bookkeeping?

    When domestic-partner programs are created for gay and lesbian couples,
the same rights cannot be denied to heterosexual couples
who do not wish to contract marriage as defined in that state.
Many organizations do in fact allow people to define their own relationships
for the purpose of various rights, duties, & benefits.
But Rauch wants to avoid all such confusions and inequities
by having one and only one kind of marriage,
which is open to all couples, regardless of sexual orientation.
Marriage should be a package deal
take it all or leave it all.

    But this reviewers encourages people create flexible relationships.
We should define for ourselves just what our relationships include.
See Designer Marriage: Write Your Own Relationship Contract.
Why would gay and lesbian couples want to sign a contract
that was designed centuries ago for heterosexual couples?
And if someone proposes a new standard marriage contract for gays,
who would assume that one relationship-pattern should fit all?

    Jonathan Rauch believes that gay people entering new relationships
will benefit from having possible marriage as a destination.
When they begin to know, like, and love each other,
they can begin to think about making it a life-long commitment.
Marriage is often the background of heterosexual dating.
But gays usually have no such expectations.
Thus they have less serious relationships.

    But this reviewer believes that gays have in fact developed
some traditions for on-going relationships.
And any two gay or lesbian people
can create their own special pattern
for their relationship.
Some gay couples would like to call their relationship "marriage".
But others have made such significant modifications
that legal marriage is not the best pattern for them.
When getting to know a new gay person
does not assume marriage as a possible goal,
then the two people are free to create
whatever ways of relating they find most meaningful.

    Rauch believes that the establishment of same-sex marriage
will end gay culture as we knew it.
Some gays continue to be childish even into adulthood.
They never have to grow up.
But being expected to marry will set a new paradigm for them.
If same-sex marriage become the general pattern for most gays,
they will think of settling down with one partner.
The sub-culture of constant play will come to an end.
Gay people will be able to become adult
in the same ways that straights usually do:
They will get married to one spouse and establish some kind of family.

    This reviewer does not foresee such a radical change.
Same-sex marriage might be embraced
by some people with homosexual sex-scripts, perhaps especially lesbians.
But most gay people will not settle into married life.
Rather, they will create their own unique relationships,
which will have little in common with conventional marriage.
Marriage should be permitted for same-sex couples,
but I expect less than half of them will decide to become legally married.
Marriage should be an option for all adults, including gays and lesbians.
But it would be better for them to create their own committed relationships
without depending on the state to define how they should relate.

    Rauch believes that children will benefit from same-sex marriage.
At present a few hundred thousand children are being raised by same-sex couples.
These children would be more secure if their parents could marry.

    Society will also benefit from same-sex marriage
because there will be less sexually-transmitted disease, such as AIDS.
When gay men are encouraged to settle down with one partner,
they will drop out of the party scene,
where many gay men caught AIDS before it was widely understood.

    And gay men settling into stable relationships
are more likely to be tested for HIV/AIDS.
Some couples will discover that they both already have HIV.
Others will discover that they are both free of the virus that causes AIDS.
And if they remain monogamous, they will not be in danger from AIDS.

    Society will benefit when gays have the freedom to marry
because everyone benefits from more stable relationships.

    But marriage might not be the best stability to encourage.
Could society encourage and facilitate more committed relationships
without specifically expecting all adults to contract legal marriages?
The possibility of same-sex marriage is emerging in the world
just as more people are questioning traditional marriage.
And if we permit new kinds of marriage-like relationships,
will encourage fresh thinking about what marriage means?

    Even when same-sex marriage is permitted everywhere,
a smaller percentage of gay adults will be married than straight adults.

    Most people who discover they are gay or lesbian
have made this discovery in a social setting
where same-sex marriage was not permitted.
Thus acknowledging their gay or lesbian imprinted sexual fantasies
also meant acknowledging that they would never marry.
When the possibility of same-sex marriage is available in society,
discovering a sex-script depicting members of the same sex
will not automatically mean that marriage is impossible.

    Rauch believes that the recognition of same-sex marriages
will cause the alternatives-to-marriage movement to decline.
Some domestic-partnership programs might disappear altogether.
They were created primarily for gay and lesbian couples,
altho heterosexual couples were included as a matter of justice.
So when gays and lesbians can marry,
why do we need domestic-partnership?

    Rauch foresees a clear line between the married and the not-married:
If people want to get the benefits of marriage, they should get married.
There is no compelling state interest in discriminating against people
who do not want to marry people of the other sex.
All marriages will be strengthened when there are only two alternatives:
married or not married.

    However, this reviewer discusses several good reasons
for not getting married in his book
Designer Marriage: Write Your Own Relationship Contract:
When gays as well as straights confront the option of marriage,
they will be able to weigh the pros and cons
of that prescribed form of relationship contract.
And more will be designing their own relationships
outside of the traditions and expectations of conventional marriage.

    Several centuries of tradition will be overturned
when same-sex marriage is recognized.
Sometimes marriage laws are national laws,
which will have to be revised by national courts or legislatures.
But in the United States, marriage laws reside with the individual states.
As more and more states grant this possibility to same-sex couples,
the resisting states will have less and less argument
that gay marriage harms straight marriage.
What harms have emerged when same-sex couples began to marry?

    The gradual, state-by-state changes
in the direction of same-sex marriage

will show year-by-year
that the catastrophes predicted by the opponents have not come to pass.

People will gradually get used to the idea
that gays and lesbians can be married at least in some states.
And young people will grow up in a world
where gays and lesbians can marry.

    Jonathan Rauch looks forward to the first golden anniversary
of some gay couple.

    This reviewer foresees diminishing government involvement
in private relationships over the next 50 years.

Marriage will still be one of the options.
But more and more peopleof all sexes and sexual orientations
will simply ignore the marriage laws 
and create their own private, personal relationships.

4. Gretcher A. Stiers

From This Day Forward:
Commitment, Marriage, and Family
in Lesbian and Gay Relationships

(New York: St. Martin's Press, 1998)
(ISBN:0-312-17542-6; hardcover)
(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.  

    Many 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 commitment ceremony
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 gays and lesbians.
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 this book
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 & Ronald Nelson, editors

Longtime Companions:
Autobiographies of Gay Male Fidelity

(Binghamton, NY: Haworth Press, 1999)       225 pages
(ISBN: 0-7890-0641-3; hardcover) 
(ISBN: 1-56023-957-3; paperback)
(Library of Congress call number: HQ75.7.L66 1999)

     Fifteen gay couples tell their stories
of long-lasting committed relationships.
The editors have been a couple for almost 50 years.
The gay couples profiled have ordinary work-lives
and are sometimes deeply involved in the gay sub-culture.
Many couples stayed together until parted by death.
Many good stories, well worth reading.

6.  Andrew Sullivan, editor

Same-Sex Marriage:
Pro and Con: A Reader

(New York: Vintage/Random House, 1997)   373 pages
(ISBN: 0-679-77637-0; paperback)
(Library of Congress call number: HQ76.25.F677 1997)

     A large collection 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.

7. Eric Marcus 

Together Forever:
Gay and Lesbian Marriage

(New York: Anchor/Doubleday, 1998)       347 pages
(ISBN: 0-385-48875-0; hardback)
(Library of Congress call number: HQ76.3.U5M354 1998)

     This book is based 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)       291 pages
(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 dealing with same-sex couples
as 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.

If you would like to see other book-reviews by James Park,
go to the Book Review Index.
Here you will find about 350 books reviewed
in about 60 bibliographies.

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