Today's gay marriage debate is the great civil rights debate of the new American Century. The United States is deeply divided on this issue. Many Americans favor gay marriage, others oppose it. Opponents of same-sex marriage often claim that allowing gay men and lesbians to marry will lead to the downfall of the institution of marriage and will do irreparable harm to children. But is this really the case?
According to authors William N. Eskridge, Jr. and Darren R. Spedale, the answer is a resounding "no." In their new book, GAY MARRIAGE: For Better or for Worse? What We've Learned From the Evidence (Oxford University Press, May 2006), the first of its kind to present empirical evidence about same-sex marriage, Spedale and Eskridge look to Scandinavia where gay couples have enjoyed the rights and benefits of marriage since 1989. They examine how same-sex marriage came to be in Scandinavia; who is getting married and why they are tying the knot; the Church's reception to same-sex unions; and how same-sex marriage has affected the couples, their families, their children, and their greater communities, both nationally and internationally, and find that the defense of marriage argument is inconsistent with the Scandinavian evidence. What Spedale and Eskridge find is that marriage in the Nordic countries has in no way suffered from legalization of same-sex unions; if anything, it has benefited. If we look at the proof from abroad, the authors argue, we must conclude that sanctioning gay marriage in the United States would neither undermine marriage as an institution, nor harm the well-being of our nation's children.
Reaching beyond ideology, GAY MARRIAGE: For Better or For Worse?, offers a unique perspective on same-sex marriage in practice, one which emphasizes evidence over rhetoric. Author William Eskridge wrote an influential brief to the Supreme Court, on behalf of the Cato Institute, which helped overturn sodomy laws in the United States. Paperback, 336 pages. List price, $25.00, Laissez Faire price, $24.95, our price $12.50.=