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Debating Same-Sex Marriage

Debating Same-Sex Marriage

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by John Corvino

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Polls and election results show Americans sharply divided on same-sex marriage, and the controversy is unlikely to subside anytime soon. Debating Same-Sex Marriage provides an indispensable roadmap to the ongoing debate. Taking a "point/counterpoint" approach, John Corvino (a philosopher and prominent gay advocate) and Maggie Gallagher (a nationally


Polls and election results show Americans sharply divided on same-sex marriage, and the controversy is unlikely to subside anytime soon. Debating Same-Sex Marriage provides an indispensable roadmap to the ongoing debate. Taking a "point/counterpoint" approach, John Corvino (a philosopher and prominent gay advocate) and Maggie Gallagher (a nationally syndicated columnist and co-founder of the National Organization for Marriage) explore fundamental questions: What is marriage for? Is sexual difference essential to it? Why does the government sanction it? What are the implications of same-sex marriage for children's welfare, for religious freedom, and for our understanding of marriage itself? While the authors disagree on many points, they share the following conviction: Because marriage is a vital public institution, this issue deserves a comprehensive, rigorous, thoughtful debate.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Wayne State University philosopher and gay rights advocate Corvino and conservative columnist Gallagher, cofounder of the National Organization for Marriage, engage in a same-sex marriage point/counterpoint. The book's stated goal is not to attempt a win but to "‘achieve disagreement'—that is, to uncover how they differ and why." But achieving this modest goal turns out to be remarkably difficult, the authors' concerted efforts revealing that the conversation has only become more complex. The book's structure resembles courtroom closing remarks, with each side making its case separately (followed by rebuttals). Corvino goes first, arguing in part that marriage's definition must be acknowledged to include more than simply procreation or the potential for a couple to have children. He agrees with many of his opponents that "a key part of the rationale for marriage is to support that kind of steady, enduring love even as romantic bliss waxes and wanes." If marriage is about reinforcing essential social contracts, then extending this privilege to same-sex couples will only increase the potential for social good. Corvino grounds his argument in solid data, pointing out weaknesses in his opponent's correlative (rather than causal) data and circular logic. Gallagher's disappointing response relies on stock answers that feel static given the arguable points Corvino offers as criticism. However, this is a valuable addition to the debate. (June)
From the Publisher
"Debating Same-Sex Marriage is an important book that lays bare the philosophical arguments for and against the legalization of same-sex marriage."
—Andre Archie, The American Conservative

"Why do the advocates of same-sex marriage want what they want? And why do defenders of traditional marriage, as uniting men with women to form families, resist such a change? One cannot do better for achieving clarity on such questions than by reading Debating Same-Sex Marriage, co-authored by John Corvino and Maggie Gallagher. Corvino, who teaches philosophy at Wayne State University in Michigan, and Gallagher, a co-founder of the National Organization for Marriage, have achieved something of real value in this book, confronting one another with (in general) an admirable degree of civility. Given the space to build arguments for their own views, and to respond to each other at length, Corvino and Gallagher provide what are probably the best and the most complete arguments on either side of this momentous debate." —Matthew J. Franck, Public Discourse

"The debate over whether to recognize same-sex relationships as marriages is among the most sensitive, difficult, and important in American public life. . . . John Corvino and Maggie Gallagher know this, which is why their arguments on marriage are so measured, reasonable, and persuasive — despite their own profound disagreement. . . . The total effect is to give readers a sense of the strengths and weaknesses of the arguments, without the usual spike in blood pressure."—Ryan T. Anderson, National Review

"This is a valuable addition to the debate." —Publishers Weekly

"Philosopher John Corvino and National Organization for Marriage co-founder Maggie Gallagher spar spiritedly but respectfully on such topics as the purpose of marriage, the rationale for state recognition, the interests of children, and the consequences for religious freedom." —Matt Reynolds, Christianity Today

"Readers have two good advocates to examine what's at stake and how it might be spun. How will it turn out? Trusting in God, but using the last words in the book: 'We shall see.'" —National Catholic Register

"Debating Same-Sex Marriage's format is quite interesting — and massively effective...It's like witnessing a live debate between these two lively characters...I highly recommend this to all — if only for a manual on how to respectfully debate a member of the opposing viewpoint. Well done!" —Elizabeth Raymond, San Francisco Book Review

"With debate intensifying over same-sex marriage, this valuable exchange of views could not be more timely. Maggie Gallagher and John Corvino set forth their opposing positions clearly, eloquently, and with admirable lack of rancor."—Mary Ann Glendon, Learned Hand Professor of Law, Harvard University

"Maggie Gallagher is a hero to many of us who care about life, marriage and religious liberty. She is lucid, honest, compassionate, fearless and above all relentlessly reasonable in making the case for marriage as the union of husband and wife. Read this book to learn more about marriage, and about the views of millions of Americans who understand this is one fight we cannot duck."—Senator Rick Santorum

"John Corvino does a masterful job laying out the positive moral good in allowing same-sex couples to marry and exposing the weaknesses in arguments against such equality. With a mix of sharp philosophical analysis and wry humorous stories, Corvino makes clear why marriage need not be exclusively heterosexual in order to be good for couples, families and society. His remarkable collaboration with Maggie Gallagher to 'achieve disagreement' — to uncover where they differ and why on allowing same-sex couples to marry — helps move the conversation forward for all of us."—Chai Feldblum, Georgetown Law professor and founder of moralvaluesproject.com

"Maggie Gallagher is one of the most eloquent and influential voices for marriage in America today. Her arguments are carefully reasoned and often deeply moving. They have influenced politicians, judges, religious leaders, scholars, and a vast number of ordinary citizens who, at this time of uncertainty about the meaning and importance of marriage, are trying to decide what to think. Although her public witness for marriage has sometimes subjected her to venomous abuse, she does not respond in kind. Rather, she is exemplary in her willingness to engage those who see the marriage question differently with civility and grace."—Robert P. George, McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence, Princeton University

"John Corvino deserves a Gay Medal of Honor for the heroic work he has done in this book. John manages to keep his cool and offer thoughtful, engaging responses in the face of bad and sometimes infuriatingly insulting arguments. John is like your favorite college professor: he offers insight so cheerfully — and at times so humorously — that you can almost forget that he's tearing your term paper apart. In this case, the student is Maggie Gallagher and the 'term paper' is her flimsy, if passionately felt, rationale for denying gay and lesbian Americans their full civil equality. John makes an elegant, forceful, civil, and inspired case for equal rights under the law. Everyone interested in the debate over marriage equality — particularly anyone who wishes to be armed with solid pro-marriage-equality arguments — should buy and read this book."—Dan Savage, author of The Commitment: Love, Sex, Marriage and My Family, and founder of the It Gets Better Project

"Maggie Gallagher has been one of the staunchest advocates for traditional marriage in our lifetime, and she has now added what may well be the most cogent defense of that venerable institution yet written. Combining her philosophical training with real world experience, Gallagher articulates quite powerfully the societal risk of transforming marriage from an institution rooted in the biological nature of men and women and designed to foster the procreation and rearing of children, to one that is simply about adult relationships. A must read for everyone grappling with the policy debate currently underway, but particularly for those judges who think the policy decision is theirs alone to make."—Dr. John C. Eastman, Henry Salvatori Professor of Law & Community Service and former Dean, Chapman University School

"The best part of this valuable point-counterpoint is John Corvino's patient, clear, and logical dismantling of every argument and insinuation made by the leading opponents of letting loving and committed gay couples and their families share in something we all agree is good. Corvino convincingly shows that the couples, children, kin, and communities deserve the simple Golden Rule of fairness and the civic respect that are part of America's promise of the pursuit of happiness, liberty, and justice for all, and that ending their exclusion from marriage would harm no one. No wonder a majority of Americans — including, notwithstanding Maggie Gallagher's arguments, 63% of American Catholics — have opened their hearts and changed their minds to support the freedom to marry."—Evan Wolfson, President of Freedom to Marry and author of Why Marriage Matters

"Corvino grounds his argument in solid data, pointing out weaknesses in his opponent's correlative (rather than casual) data and circular logic.... This is a valuable addition to the debate."—Publishers Weekly

"Though I have been critical of the arguments presented by Gallagher in this book, I actually think that the book in general is actually an excellent one. It lays out the arguments on both sides of this issue clearly and concisely. Hence, Debating Same-Sex Marriage is an outstanding book not only for the general reader who wants to know more about this debate; it would also be perfect for a university course examining this issue."—Robert Scott Stewart, Metapsychology Online Reviews

Product Details

Oxford University Press
Publication date:
Oxford Point/Counterpoint Series
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Barnes & Noble
File size:
2 MB

Meet the Author

John Corvino is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Wayne State University. Maggie Gallagher is co-founder of the National Organization for Marriage.

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Debating Same-Sex Marriage 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
In a point/counterpoint format, Corvino and Gallagher make the case for two competing views of marriage. Corvino, going first, follows people like Jonathan Rauch and defends the "conservative" case for same-sex marriage. Since marriage "promotes mutual lifelong caregiving in a way that no other institution does," (p.20) same-sex couples ought to be allowed to marry. To be sure, child welfare is an important aspect of marriage, but Corvino thinks that marriage is much more than this, hence why we recognize marriages between the infertile and elderly. Corvino is a sharp scholar who has done his homework: his opening essay engages with the arguments made elsewhere by Gallagher, along with other influential figures in the marriage debate such as Robert George and David Blankenhorn. Gallagher's chapter contains an impressive array of sociological, anthropological, and legal evidence. Indeed, her argument contained 172 footnotes compared to Corvino's 114. She argues that marriage is a natural institution grounded in real gender differences between men and women that is recognized -- and not created -- by the law. The sterile and elderly meet this requirement, as they are instances of a type of union in which can create new life, even if they cannot fully recognize the goods of marriage. Gallagher argues the the fundamental reason why same-sex marriage is unjust is because it is a lie about human nature. Since same-sex marriages are based on a mistaken view of human nature, their enshrinement into law will change traditional marital norms such as permanence and fidelity. Marriage is first and foremost about child welfare, for all children deserve a mother and a father. This important public purpose is why the state is involved in marriage to begin with. "Marital unions are necessary in a way that other unions (however morally good or individually beneficial) are not." (p.98) Friendships, for example, are inherently good, but obviously not deserving of legal recognition. After making the case for their respective positions, Corvino and Gallagher launch into rebuttals of the opposing positions. I won't go too much into them, except to say that both sides seriously and respectfully engaged with each other's arguments, a rare sight in the same-sex marriage debate these days. Personally, I thought Gallagher had the overall upper hand, although I would have liked to see more in her rebuttal to Corvino. All in all, this is a great book. Anyone interested in understanding the substance behind the same-sex marriage debate should read this.
CWM1 More than 1 year ago
Loved the book ! It was well written and presented both sides of the issues very well. It is so relevant to the issues today and helped me engage intelligently in conversations on the topic.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I found this novel truly helpful to gaining a comprehensive understanding of the same-sex marriage argument. Funnily enough, I only found my own views solidified. Gallagher did a somewhat poor job of arguing against Corvino and, instead of addressing the major points he raised, she focused on minor things he said, such as herself being bigoted. Now, had she actually had a well-written, logical argument, maybe I could have more easily understood those who oppose same-sex marriage and adoption. However, now I feel like they're all bigots. While I am sure this isn't true, Gallagher should absolutely not have been the person representing those who disagree with same-sex marriage - she failed at her points quite terribly. One last thing to add, Corvino addressed the idea that Gallagher's organization, the National Organization for Marriage, only bashes same-sex couples. Gallagher couldn't refute it so she mentioned it in her counterargument, then oh-so-not-smoothly nitpicked through every single word he said not relating to that. If you have something against gay people, she ought to stop hiding like a child behind a lousy, argument that makes no sense and just say what she really means.
RepublicanForDecency More than 1 year ago
While Dr. Corvino does his best to keep the conservation factual and logical, Miss Gallagher simply replies with bumpersticker slogans worthy of any KKK rally. As Jackie Onasis famously said, you dont get in a fight with a skunk. And Gallagher is an execptionally nasty skunk.