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Debating Same-Sex Marriage (Point/Counterpoint) Paperback – 1 Jun 2012

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3.9 out of 5 stars 27 reviews from the U.S.

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this is a very useful book, especially in the way that it sets out the public reason arguments for and against same-sex marriage, and so lets readers evaluate which are more persuasive ... The book can and should be widely used in undergraduate courses in philosophy as well as other disciplines, and could be useful in law or public policy graduate programs, as well as appealing to the general educated public. (Matthew Lister, Criminal Law and Philosophy)

...a valuable introduction to the debate (Megan Pearson, London School of Economics Review of Books)

... a valuable addition to the debate. (Publishers Weekly)

About the Author

John Corvino is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Wayne State University Maggie Gallagher is co-founder of the National Organization for Marriage

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) (May include reviews from Early Reviewer Rewards Program) 3.9 out of 5 stars 27 reviews
32 of 34 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Do I understand you now? 11 July 2012
By Sam Clemens - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I do not want to feign neutrality, so in this review I mostly address those who, like me, favor same-sex marriage going in. Do I understand precisely where I disagree with the other side now? Have my views changed? Is it worth reading?

I thoroughly enjoyed Corvino's opening essay. I found it very clear, mostly thorough, extremely well-written, periodically funny, and I felt the vast majority was logically rigorous. While most of his arguments are "emotionless", he spends a little time humanizing the issue by recounting a gay wedding and an interview with some gay dads--this would be a decent reason to loan the book to opponents of same-sex marriage even if they are unaffected by the arguments themselves. His essay is not perfect, however, and it missed some important points which I will bring up shortly.

To be honest, I found Gallagher's opening essay painful to read--though please hear me out to the end. Much of the pain was stylistic: I found it repetitive, frequently unclear, often incomplete, and also less engaging--Corvino is the better writer, though that doesn't necessarily mean he should win the debate. As for content, unlike Corvino, Gallagher spent very little time countering the other side's claims. Her essay would have been much more useful to me if she had spent some time doing so, since I was mostly unable to rebut my own objections to her points. My other main content complaint is that her most important and longest argument was completely ineffective on me: to her, "marriage equality" is just not "true" because "marriage" means male-female--that's the definition. To me, I do not share her Platonic ideal (and I don't believe many people do)--I fully expect social institutions to evolve over time and serve multiple roles as society continues to change. I cannot imagine a marriage equality supporter who is affected by this argument, so I question its usefulness. It does, however, give insight into Gallagher's reasoning. To her credit many of her arguments are independent of this one.

The second half of her essay was more valuable to me. It used consequentialist arguments--bad things will happen if marriage equality is realized. I did not agree with many of her actual arguments, but nonetheless I was forced to seriously consider the merit of her overarching position. Will bad things really happen if gay people can get married? Why have I not seriously considered this before? I then realized something important--very few consequentialist arguments with solid evidence are presented by either side. For instance, one of Gallagher's arguments is that gay marriage will produce fatherlessness by changing straight men's ideas of marriage into something where fidelity is optional because gay men provide an example population that very often has open relationships. The important question is, then, do straight men on planet Earth truly change their behavior in the face of gay marriage, all logical arguments aside? Gallagher's hard evidence only supports the claim that gay men have lots of open relationships and not the conclusion itself. Corvino offers several abstract rebuttals that amount to "it really shouldn't". Is there any hard evidence either way? This, I believe, is the absolute heart of the disagreement. I do not believe this or similar assertions, while Gallagher truly does--she ends her arguments ominously with, "We shall see." And yet, neither of us has presented rigorous evidence for our case; all we have are claims and suppositions. I find her's unlikely, she finds mine unlikely. In a way, I feel I have achieved disagreement with her.

I must say I found most of Gallagher's arguments difficult to unwind. She often had valid points, but I felt they were buried and that I had to complete or fix her arguments or translate them from a foreign language into my own.

The two brief response essays were not particularly useful to me. Corvino repeats some of his previous counterarguments, as he had already addressed Gallagher's main objections, though he again stays abstract. Gallagher largely ignores Corvino and repeats her own arguments again (repetition was a theme with her text; eg. she included several quotes verbatim in multiple places). When she does address Corvino, she seems to misunderstand him, so I didn't find those rebuttals useful. I wish they had replaced the rebuttals with role reversals, where each author tried to argue for the other's position using the arguments they had learned, in an attempt to really achieve disagreement.

To answer my previous questions, I consider even the best consequentialist counterarguments presented extremely unlikely, so I am more solidly pro-gay marriage than ever. I do feel I now understand several specific, fundamental sources of disagreement. However, because in my view both sides "missed the boat" and only partially achieved disagreement and their arguments were both incomplete in a crucial way, I give it a 4 out of 5. If you have not seriously given time to consider opponents' views, it is worth the time to do so with this book, despite the potential pain.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Debating Same Sex Marriage 15 Jan. 2013
By Marc C. - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
If you don't want to have your view on Same Sex Marriage challenged in any way or to reflect on another point of view, then this book, co-authored by John Corvino and Maggie Gallagher, is not the one for you. But if you want to have a better understanding of the legitimate concerns on both sides of this issue, I think this book, Debating Same Sex Marriage, is valuable. I think that both Corvino and Gallagher present their respective views in a compelling way. Too much of the rhetoric on this issue has been thrown around within the echo chambers on each side, and I think this book serves a much-needed purpose in bringing about understanding on this relevant issue. If you seek understanding, rather than just being right all the time, I highly recommend this book. The last chapter of Corvino's rebuttal, just before his conclusion, and the last six pages of Gallagher's final rebuttal are powerful statements, which give a good sense of where they stand. The only thing that I don't understand is why the Secret Police have jerked this book from all the shelves. After I saw Corvino and Gallagher interview each other on Book TV, I searched through book stores in three states and was not able to find this book anywhere. I'm rather mystified by this.
4.0 out of 5 stars Understanding others point of view helps you to get you point of view across. 26 May 2013
By Phillip John Michels - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Let me start by saying I am a 50 year old Gay man who would some day like to marry my Partner of nearly 15 years. This book is important! We must understand what it is that we are for and against to be able to argue our point to the other side. It is easy to say we are right and they are bigots and wrong. The dilemna is that sometimes those bigots are very similar to our own parents, family and friends who we love with all of our hearts. Sometimes those bigots can make points that we need to think about to help us to come to a mutually agreed upon compromise. We need to stop ourselves from name calling and listen. In Debating Same Sex Marriage Corvino and Gallagher agreed to hear what the other has to say. We can quote bible passages that fall on deaf ears and we can talk about human rights that will fall on equally deaf ears. I urge people to read this book because it encourages one to listen and think. It is easy to read the parts written by the guy you agree with but it is just as if not more important to hear what the other guy has to say. If you understand what and why someone believes something it gives you much more chance to thoughtfully disagree and make your own thoughts known. I grew up in a home where the person who shouted the loudest was the winner. But truthfully no one really won everyone else just gave up. Our Country is filled with people yelling at each other and we are making little progress in many areas. Do yourself a favor and get to know more fully what you are for and against.
2.0 out of 5 stars Two Stars 20 May 2017
By V. Kolo - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Decent read.
5.0 out of 5 stars Same-sex Marriage: Benefit or Bane? 8 May 2013
By Earl P. Chantrill - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
John Corvino, a proud advocate for same-sex marriage and Maggie Gallagher, founder of National Organization for Marriage and an outspoken critic of the idea that same-sex unions can ever be marriage, present their best arguments pro and con. Absolutely necessary reading for anyone who cares about marriage and family and who wonders how same-sex marriage will change these venerable institutions.
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