State of the Union: The Marriage Issue

By Kim, Richard; Reed, Betsy | The Nation, July 5, 2004 | Go to article overview

State of the Union: The Marriage Issue


Kim, Richard, Reed, Betsy, The Nation


For better or worse, there isn't always magic in marriage, but it does involve a certain alchemy. Love, sex, romance, friendship, children, family, property, money, health, death, taxes, work, religion: Some or all of these constituent parts are bundled into a single package, which then, rather impressively, holds everything together--until it breaks apart. As a result, marriage is a battleground for a whole roiling mass of distinct yet interconnected issues. This is especially clear in the national debate over same-sex marriage, which is not just about evolving "family values" but, as the Rev. Howard Moody argues here, the way church and state vie for authority over our intimate lives.

Whether because of its potency as a symbol or simply its centrality in social life, one thing can be said about marriage: It is a subject on which everyone has an opinion. So it seemed a perfect subject for a special issue, and this June--season of weddings, gay and otherwise--a ripe moment for it. No sooner were a few tentative feelers put out soliciting replies to our query, "Can Marriage Be Saved?" than the contributions to the forum began pouring in--by turns angry, measured, ecstatic and amused, but all inspired by a thirst for frank discussion of marriage, both as it is structured and mythologized and as it is lived.

Such a range of perspectives is urgently needed in the gay-marriage debate, which is typically conducted in pro/con format. The "pro" picture often leaves the impression that gays and lesbians just want a place at the altar--neither mining the once-robust queer and feminist critique of marriage nor probing the fractious state of the marital union.

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