Why Marriage: The History Shaping Today's Debate Over Gay



10 thoughts on “Why Marriage: The History Shaping Today's Debate Over Gay Equality

  1. Meg Meg says:

    People concerned about gay marriage rights will know lots that Chauncey covers in this book However, I think that some of his main points are not facts that I hear often understood from many people First, homosexual conduct has not been historically as regulated in the U.S as it became in the 20th century before the 1920s and 30s, many of the laws that were put on the books then did not exist The current form of criminalization of homosexuality is a 20th century invention.Second, marriage h People concerned about gay marriage rights will know lots that Chauncey covers in this book However, I think that some of his main points are not facts that I hear often understood from many people First, homosexual conduct has not been historically as regulated in the U.S as it became in the 20th century before the 1920s and 30s, many of the laws that were put on the books then did not exist The current form of criminalization of homosexuality is a 20th century invention.Second, marriage has become such a focus point for the debate over gay equality because legally marriage has become a nexus for basic civil and economic rights representative of a basic status of citizenship This, too, is unique to the post WWII United States marriage has been less a contentious topic in other countries because their social benefits welfare systems are connected to individuals, not to married couples The way we regulate gender and work through the family, via the concentration of economic rights through married couples, doesn t necessarily make sense and is not the case in many places nor was it always the case here.Third, even while many conservative religious figures have rejected equating the social status of gays and lesbians today with that of blacks before the civil rights movement, many of their arguments against gay marriage are incredibly similar to those arguments they made against segregation in the 1950s Jerry Falwell, for instance, argued strongly against interracial marriage in the 50s, saying it was against God s plan This seems to support the idea that many religious conservatives use so called Biblical notions simply as a prop to uphold their own preferences for social and economic inequality.In general, Chauncey s book is a good popular account that utilizes history to contextualize and challenge assumptions on the topic


  2. Avril Avril says:

    In the Acknowledgments at the end of Why Marriage , George Chauncey says that he wrote it in three months, and at five chapters and less than 2000 pages,it isa pamphlet or an essay than a book This isn t in any way to disparage Why Marriage rather it s a reason for anyone interested in the issue of same sex marriage to pick up a copy and quickly learn a littleabout the debate Why Marriage tells the history of the American debate, but much of what Chauncey writes will be re In the Acknowledgments at the end of Why Marriage , George Chauncey says that he wrote it in three months, and at five chapters and less than 2000 pages,it isa pamphlet or an essay than a book This isn t in any way to disparage Why Marriage rather it s a reason for anyone interested in the issue of same sex marriage to pick up a copy and quickly learn a littleabout the debate Why Marriage tells the history of the American debate, but much of what Chauncey writes will be relevant to other Western countries In the first chapter, The Legacy of Antigay Discrimination , Chauncey reminds readers of how recently homosexuality was not merely disapproved of, but criminalized, and the ways in which various institutions law, church, medicine, the entertainment industry policed and persecuted homosexual people This is a very recent history, the height of homosexual persecution was post World War Two, but it is a history that has been quickly forgotten.The irony, of course, is that with increased persecution came increased militancy and, Chauncey writes Long before masses of gay people chose to come out of the closet, the national government played a crucial role in destroying the walls between people s public roles as workers and churchgoers and their private lives as homosexuals p 27 This is the theme of the second chapter, Gay Rights, Civil Rights , which examines how America moved from anti gay discrimination to a situation in which same sex marriage can even be talked about Part of it was the creation of a resisting community as a result of persecution part of it was the influence of feminism and the sexual revolution part of it was the inspiration taken from the many social movements that called on people to engage in risky acts of witness, from sitting at a segregated lunch counter to burning a draft card p 33 But possibly the biggest factor was the crisis caused by AIDS, and by the refusal of the government and public institutions to care for the people affected by it This led both to an increased mobilization of gay people, and increased cooperation between gay men and lesbian women By the mid 1990s, then, lesbians and gay men faced a complex mixture of support and hostility p 56 Without that support, marriage rights for gay couples would be unimaginable.The third chapter, How Marriage Changed looks at the other reason that same sex marriage is now at least imaginable the changing nature of marriage itself The chapter begins with a paragraph that anyone discussing same sex marriage should be required to learn off by heart Marriage is constantly changing Once often polygamous, it is now usually monogamous Once concerned primarily with the control of labor and the transmission of property, now it is supposed to nurture happiness and mutual commitment Once governed by custom alone, it has been alternately regulated by kin, slave owners, masters, church, and state Given the enormous variation over time and among cultures in how marriage has organized sexual and emotional life, child rearing, property, kinship, and political alliances, many anthropologists are loathe to use the term marriage at all, since the term s apparently straightforward simplicity hides so muchthan it reveals p 59 Chauncey then goes on to describe four historical factors that have opened up the possibility of same sex marriage the recognition of the freedom to chose one s marriage partner as a civil right the increasing egalitarianism and gender neutrality of marriage the importance of marriage in the allocation of state and private benefits and the decreasing power of religious authorities to impose their marriage rules on others Of these four factors only the third, the importance of marriage in allocating benefits, isn t equally important in the Australian context While marriage still makes some difference to the rights and responsibilities of Australians, it isn t so important in a country with universal healthcare, and one in which age, disability and unemployment benefits are provided by the government rather than employers Australians do not need to rely on their spouse s employer for healthcare But the other three factors are just as true in Australia as they are in the USA.In the fourth chapter, Why Marriage Became a Goal , Chauncey explains why support for same sex marriage went from being a minority position to being widely held by gay and lesbian people The reason was two searing experiences of the 1980s that forever impressed on lesbians and gay men the importance of securing their relationships the devastating impact of AIDS and the astonishing rapid appearance of what everyone soon called the lesbian baby boom p 95 People were unable to be with their dying partners in hospital or organize their funerals because they weren t next of kin survivors could lose their homes after the death of partner the non biological mother could lose custody of their children after the death of the biological mother Marriage would solve all this by providing legal protections not ptherwise availble, or available only at great cost A full set of documents necessary to approximate the protections provided by marriage could cost several thousand dollars a marriage license might cost 25 p 113 Workplace domestic partnership policies solved some problems, but not all No domestic partnership policy could provide hospital visitation rights, or social security benefits, or the pension protections available to married couples p 118 So gay people started to fight for the right to marry, and on November 18, 2003, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled that the state start issuing marriage licenses to same sex couples, which from May 17 , 2004, the state did More than 250 couples lined up at the steps of city hall in Cambridge, Massachusetts, to receive marriage lisences on that first day, cheered on by a crowd of ten thousand p 138 In the final chapter, The Present as History , Chauncey puts the then present moment, 2004, into historical context, looking at what the gay rush to marriage signified what the Defence of Marriage Act DOMA and what can be learned from previous marriage debate the debate over inter racial marriages, or miscegenation History teaches that marriage bans play an integral role in reinforcing broader patterns of inequality p 161 This is why so many same sex couples seek marriage, as a refusal of second class citizenship It is why the Religious Right and other conservative groups oppose same sex marriage so strongly, because a marriage without a husband and a wife challenges the God given subordination of women It is why so many groups, including religious groups, argued so strongly against mixed race marriage, because such marriages indicated the full and equal citizenship of blacks and whites History teaches that the demonization of subordinate groups as sexually aberrant and dangerous has served to justify their subordination Homosexuals are not the first group to be demonized as sexual sinners and predators p 163 History warns that both the supporters and opponents of same sex marriage have exaggerated its potential impact By finally, history encourages us that things can change Racism has not disappeared, but the theology of Dr King has triumphed over segregationist theology so decisively that his religious opponents have been almost entirely forgotten p 164 And so Chauncey ends nothing in history is inevitable As always, our future lies in our own hands This book is as relevant to Australia as it is to the USA The Religious Right is much less powerful here than it is there no matter what the Australian Christian Lobby may tell politicians but on this topic it has still captured our atheist Prime Minister, while the Catholic Leader of the Opposition takes the official Vatican line The legal importance of marriage is less in Australia, with very little difference between the rights and responsibilies created by marriage and those created by de facto relationships, and no differences at all when it comes to children But allowing same sex couples the equivalent of de facto relationships would still create a second class of relationship in Australia simply because they would not have the choice that heterosexual couples have between marriage and a de facto relationship There was less fear about miscegenation in Australia than there was in the USA, in fact at some points in Australia s history breeding the colour out was seen as a way of dealing with Aboriginal people But Australia s indigenous people also have a history of their marriages not being recognized and their rights as spouses and parents ignored they too can recognize that the right to marry is an important civil right The history of the present that Chauncey describes is as important for Australians to know as it is for Americans So, for anyone interested in the current debate about same sex marriage, and particularly for those people who, like me, want the Uniting Church to advocate for and bless same sex marriages, I heartily recommend this little book


  3. Jonathan Jonathan says:

    A concise argument for gay marriage, generally effective but written in a hurry For his history, Chauncey leans on secondary sources including his own Gay New York , somereliable than others He s pretty vague on any history that comes before the twentieth century he tries to explain how things were Before, but Before is not a particularly helpful category of analysis for such a complex issue.That modern American absorption creates the central weakness in Chauncey s argument Chauncey t A concise argument for gay marriage, generally effective but written in a hurry For his history, Chauncey leans on secondary sources including his own Gay New York , somereliable than others He s pretty vague on any history that comes before the twentieth century he tries to explain how things were Before, but Before is not a particularly helpful category of analysis for such a complex issue.That modern American absorption creates the central weakness in Chauncey s argument Chauncey tries to show that marriage was not always as clearly defined a civil legal institution as it is now in America He also tries to show that homosexuals did not always face the discrimination they face now in America And ultimately, he tries to show that contemporary discrimination can only be remedied by allowing homosexuals to marry The trouble is, his argument does not address the possibility that marriage itself including its place in the law as a basis for civil benefits could be changed as an alternate remedy to opening up marriage to homosexual individuals This could undermine the book s effectiveness with a certain kind of libertarian traditionalist and with certain kinds of leftist activists And it s a strange gap in the argument, given that Chauncey himself implies the possibility by discussing the dramatic changes that have taken place in the legal civil institution since the eighteenth century He doesn t show that marriage is necessary to the just operation of our laws, so he doesn t actually show that gay marriage is necessary to the just operation of our laws.But one could hardly expect a book like this to address all possible forms of radical change I think the book largely succeeds in addressing its intended audience centrist Americans who are perhaps uncomfortable with the idea of gay marriage but not with gay rights in the abstract And I should add that Chauncey does a pretty good job being fair to his opponents in this text


  4. Tim Cummings Tim Cummings says:

    Informative and important.


  5. sdw sdw says:

    This short sweet book provides a concise overview of the history of antigay discrimination and the rise of gay rights movements in the US followed by an explanation for why marriage became a goal of the gay rights movement The first chapter is one of theeloquent explanations of popular attitudes about homosexuality in the 20th century It does a good job of recreating the era, as Chauncey explains, when there was no Will Grace or Ellen, no Queer Eye for the Straight Guy , no Philadelph This short sweet book provides a concise overview of the history of antigay discrimination and the rise of gay rights movements in the US followed by an explanation for why marriage became a goal of the gay rights movement The first chapter is one of theeloquent explanations of popular attitudes about homosexuality in the 20th century It does a good job of recreating the era, as Chauncey explains, when there was no Will Grace or Ellen, no Queer Eye for the Straight Guy , no Philadelphia or The Hours , no annual Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender LGBT film festival 5 in other words when invisibility was one of the key ways in which antigay discrimination operated on a systematic level From teaching this book I ve learned how easily even the recent past becomes invisible to those who have not lived through it I found the chapter on How Marriage Changed overly simplified and not the story I would tell He states marriage becameegalitarian, increasingly used as a depository of federal benefits, and less religious in nature In the Chapter Why Marriage Became A Goal he offers two answers the Aids crisis, and what he terms the lesbian baby boom both of which through birth and death drove home the importance of the protections marriage offered The final chapter is a call to action.One thing I thought was sorely missing from this book is the idea of gender and sexuality as changing social constructs This was surprisingly to me since that is the core of the success ofGay New York


  6. David David says:

    This was a really quick history of marriage and the struggle for GLBTQ civil rights andspecifically marriage equality Plus, Chauncey put together a simple and straight forward argument for the value of marriage equality for all people I learned about the significance of the Lesbian Baby Boom of the 1970s and 1980s as another need for marriage or partner rights that coincided with the health care needs of primarily Gay men in the 1980s dealing with HIV AIDS Also I was impressed with Chau This was a really quick history of marriage and the struggle for GLBTQ civil rights andspecifically marriage equality Plus, Chauncey put together a simple and straight forward argument for the value of marriage equality for all people I learned about the significance of the Lesbian Baby Boom of the 1970s and 1980s as another need for marriage or partner rights that coincided with the health care needs of primarily Gay men in the 1980s dealing with HIV AIDS Also I was impressed with Chauncey s linking the religious right wing opposition to Gay Marriage to the changing perceptions of marriage in the general public He argues ultimately the religious right s irritation began with the rights of women changing in the early 20th century which helped support the liberation of roles for both men and women from the traditional roles of husband as breadwinner and wife as homemaker For the religious right Gay Marriage is unsettling because it could further liberate the notion of marriage by eliminating husband and wife.I hope that marriage can be liberated from these discriminatory conservative religious perceptions


  7. Jack Jack says:

    This is a good little primer in absolute terms But people familiar with the narrative of the gay liberation movement particularly after WWII are going to find that the first part of the book is a brief, eloquent survey of the topic that provides little they hadn t already read Similarly, people following the arguments in favor of Gay Marriage through the news media, etc., will be familiar with the second part of the book It would, however, probably be an excellent introduction to both top This is a good little primer in absolute terms But people familiar with the narrative of the gay liberation movement particularly after WWII are going to find that the first part of the book is a brief, eloquent survey of the topic that provides little they hadn t already read Similarly, people following the arguments in favor of Gay Marriage through the news media, etc., will be familiar with the second part of the book It would, however, probably be an excellent introduction to both topics for those who need it I also find that I m inclined to resent the book simply because it could help delay The Strange Career of the Closet, which in a just world would get a midnight release comparable to one of the Harry Potter books


  8. Sidewalk_Sotol Sidewalk_Sotol says:

    Relatively short and not overly technical, Chauncey s book traces the historical changes of mainstream US society regarding the social and legal aspects of marriage since the turn of the 20th century as well as how white lesbian and gay attitudes towards this institution have likewise developed.


  9. Miya Miya says:

    Really well written, concise, interesting History I never knew and of course never learned in school Chauncey is a talented writer and makes this non fiction book that could be dry and tedious to get through actually enjoyable and readable.


  10. Harper Harper says:

    this is a 101 level book that certainly favors the pro marriage side of the debate, though it does examine the queer criticism of marriage as an institution it doesn t delve deeply enough into a dialogue between the two sides.


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Why Marriage: The History Shaping Today's Debate Over Gay Equality ➥ [Ebook] ➠ Why Marriage: The History Shaping Today's Debate Over Gay Equality By George Chauncey ➯ – Natus-physiotherapy.co.uk George Chauncey, one of our country s preeminent historians of gay life shows how the gay quest for marriage rights resulted from generations of change in marriage itself as well as decades of struggl The History MOBI ï George Chauncey, one of our country s preeminent historians of gay life shows how the gay quest for marriage rights resulted from generations of change in marriage itself as well as decades of struggle over gay rights In an account of the changing place of lesbians Why Marriage: MOBI :Ê and gay men in American society, he recalls the pervasive discrimination faced by lesbians and gay men only a few decades ago, when the federal government fired thousands of gay employees and restaurants were shut down merely for serving them He shows how the AIDS crisis, the Marriage: The History PDF/EPUB ¿ boom in lesbian and gay parenting, and the continuing discrimination faced by gay families in insurance, pensions, and child custody struggles led to the campaign for the rights and protections of marriage Chauncey provides an analysis of the shifting attitudes of heterosexual Americans toward gay people, from the dramatic growth in acceptance to the many campaigns against gay rights that form the background to today s demand for a constitutional amendment on marriage He also develops a comparison between the religious opposition to interracial marriage and desegregation just fifty years ago and the sources of opposition to same sex marriage today Why Marriage is an essential book for gay and straight readers alike.