David Blankenhorn's The Future of Marriage: Review

Pages: 6 (2069 words) Published: February 25, 2014
To begin, I must admit that I approached David Blankenhorn's book The Future of Marriage with some trepidation, as I know that he is against extending marriage to same-sex couples. After reading the book, however, I have to give him credit for approaching the issue with more respect than most who believe in preserving “family values.” He doesn't fall into the easy and usual trap of moralizing about homosexuality being "wrong," "perverted," or "unnatural." In fact, he goes as far as saying "homosexual behavior is an important and normal (expected) occurrence in human societies" (Blankenhorn 115) and "[w]e as a society can and should accept the dignity of homosexual love and the equal worth of gay and lesbian persons" (179). Such acknowledgments do a lot to encourage dialogue out of mutual respect; something that many on his side would do better to remember. David Blankenhorn is a world authority on the institution of marriage. One of the biggest debates concerning marriage today is whether we should expand the concept to include same-sex marriage. Blankenhorn thinks not, and in his book titled, The Future of Marriage, sets out to make the case against homosexual marriage. But he does so, pre-eminently, by making the case for the institution of heterosexual marriage. Blankenhorn first seeks to get a handle on what marriage is, and then he shows how it has been experienced over the centuries. The first half of the book is about what marriage is, and how it has developed. The second half deals with the challenge of same-sex marriage. Although homosexual couples should have the right to love one another without experiencing prejudice, their unions should not be labeled as a “marriage”, for this would cause our society to rethink the values of marriage and how it pertains to children. Blankenhorn recognizes that a definition of marriage is a slippery affair, but after a close examination of the issue and how others have thought about it, he comes up with this helpful intellection; “In all or nearly all human societies, marriage is socially approved sexual intercourse between a woman and a man, conceived both as a personal relationship and as an institution, primarily such that any children resulting from the union are – and are understood by society to be – emotionally, morally, practically, and legally affiliated with both of the parents” (Blankenhorn 91). In his overview of the history of marriage, he demonstrates what has been the universal belief about marriage: It reflects the fundamental belief that “for every child, a mother and a father” (81). Thus marriage is primarily about two things: the socially approved sexual intercourse between a woman and a man, and the protection and nurturing of the fruit of that relationship. Both are vital components of marriage, and must not be separated from it or from each other. He argues that marriage is based on two universal and timeless basic rules: the rule of opposites (marriage is man-woman) and the rule of sex (marriage involves sexual intercourse). And even though it is difficult for people to get their head around this fact, sexual intercourse has always been about procreation, or at least its possibility. Marriage is not just a private relationship; it is a public institution. Social institutions exist to meet fundamental human needs. The need for the institution of marriage arises because human beings are “sexually embodied creatures who everywhere reproduce sexually and give birth to helpless, socially needy offspring who remain immature for long periods of time and who therefore depend on the love and support of both of the parents who brought them into existence” (102). So how does same-sex marriage fit into all this? First, it must be said that Blankenhorn is not unsympathetic to the arguments of homosexuals wanting marriage rights. He believes that basic human rights are important, and that all people must be treated with dignity. But he still believes that marriage is...
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