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In the debate over homosexual marriage, a predominant stereotype holds that there are two distinct and opposing sides. On the side that favors it, of course, are all fair and open-minded people who possess depths of understanding about what enlightened societies should do. On the other are small-minded, backwoods homophobes.

Of course, plenty of evidence exists for the diversity of minds, great and small, on both sides. An impressive gathering of some of these minds and their compelling concerns about the future of same-sex marriage are on display in an important new book, The Meaning of Marriage. Edited by Robert George of Princeton and Jean Bethke Elshtain of the University of Chicago, this volume contains a spirited collection of papers delivered at a Princeton conference in December 2004.

The book draws from a politically diverse, multidisciplinary panel of historians, ethicists, philosophers, economists, sociologists, political scientists, psychiatrists, and public policy experts. While focusing primarily on same-sex marriage, these essays take a larger look at marriage's history, social roles, and changing face.

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Uncomfortable Questions

Marriage is a hot-button political issue. So far, 39 states have protected marriage by constitutional amendment or statute, or both. Voters in at least 7 more will consider the issue this year. Elshtain says that marriage has become a polarizing topic because it forces us to ask uncomfortable but basic questions about our humanity. Related to marriage, of course, are abortion, cloning, stem cells, and sexuality. These issues are controversial precisely because so much of our culture has forgotten what humanity really is.

British philosopher Roger Scruton explores marriage from a wide-lens ...

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July 2006

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