by Evan Wolfson, reading at Border's Downtown, 708 SW 3rd, Friday August 6, 7 pm
Given the cascade of new books about the fight for equal marriage rights, I picked up this book with a heavy dose of skepticism. On the other hand, the immediate relevance and controversy surrounding the issue left me with little choice but to seek out coherent information. That and I felt tired of taking the cynic's defense in heated conversations with my friends and family.
The good news: Why Marriage Matters challenged my doubts with concise and efficient arguments for equal marriage. Evan Wolfson served as co-counsel in the historic Hawaii marriage case Baehr v. Miike and appeared before the U.S. Supreme Court in Boy Scouts v. James Dale. His experience in the field provides an authoritative voice to this accessible work. The book begins with a general overview of the legal benefits denied same-sex couples and moves into a straightforward survey of what marriage means in different contexts; how it relates to procreation, children, religion, and civil unions.
Why Marriage Matters analyzes the controversy from an admirable distance and matches its ideas with strong, factual evidence, cutting through the bullshit about love, fidelity, and relationship "success"--all points that polemicists somehow continue to use against same-sex marriage without taking into account their irrelevance to the legal requirements of heterosexual marriage. In other words, Wolfson focuses on actual circumstances and power struggles rather than trumpeting a bunch of dead-end rainbow rhetoric about the love between two men being the same as the love between a man and a woman.
What I found most useful about Wolfson's book is that he lays out a solid, dependable case for equal marriage without a moral agenda. He clearly states that the moral status of equal marriage should be irrelevant to the law; the argument over the relative "rightness" of same-sex marriage pales in significance to the real issue at hand: the abuse and misappropriation of legal power. Thanks to this book, I now feel capable of having productive discussions about equal marriage.