My new article, “Beyond Gay Marriage,” is the most thorough statement of the slippery-slope argument on gay marriage I have ever made. If you have any interest in the controversy over gay marriage–particularly if you are undecided–I hope you will read this piece. This article contains a lot of new material. But there is plenty more to say. In the months ahead, I will be expanding on the points raised here. And sometime in the next month or two, I expect to come out with another ambitious piece that approaches the gay-marriage issue from a new direction. That piece will show, even more dramatically than the slippery slope argument of “Beyond Gay Marriage,” that the virtual disappearance of marriage, both legally and socially, is all too realistic a possibility.
All parties to our disputes over marriage agree that the institution is undergoing rapid, even drastic, changes. On both the left and the libertarian right, the argument seems to be that, given all the changes, we might as well keep going. The social right sometimes echoes that view, noting sadly that, having discarded so many props of traditional marriage, further radical changes are bound to follow. All that may be true. Yet I have argued that a middle ground position, between the family system of the fifties and the utopianism of the sixties, is in principle sustainable.
By traditional standards, my position on marriage is fairly liberal. While I do think we should consider a waiting period for divorces in which children are involved, I see a fundamental rollback of no-fault divorce as neither possible nor desirable. Nor do I think it either possible or desirable to eliminate premarital cohabitation. On the other hand, I believe we need to draw a bright line between marriage and cohabitation–particularly when it comes to having children. I oppose the recent and ill-advised proposals of the American Law Institute to treat cohabitation more like marriage. The question in all this is whether it is possible to find a middle way. Can we accept and embrace the benefits of our increased freedom and privacy, while also drawing some lines to prevent a further weakening of marriage as an institution? This will be tough to do. Fortunately, the American public would like a middle ground solution–one that accepts many of the changes in marriage, while also setting limits to reform.