Book review: Beyond (Straight and Gay) Marriage: Valuing All Families Under the Law

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Nancy Polikoff’s book is a wonderful survey of the ways in which marriage will not solve the problems of all who identify as family. Polikoff argues that if our goal is to provide equality for all families, looking to the substantive laws implicated rather than the status of marriage is the best way to achieve that goal. The book is clear, easy to read and compelling–if the goal of the marriage equality movement is only to secure for same-sex couples the same rights as those enjoyed by married couples. What’s missing, though, is a thorough examination of another goal of same-sex marriage–to normalize the status of same-sex couples. Marriage, for better or worse, matters, and simply renaming it (as she suggests has been done for custody) is not sufficient to overcome the centuries of mythology that surround it. Moreover, her policy proposals sweep too broadly, pulling in (in the area of property distribution) couples who have decided to opt out of marriage and all that it means. Nonetheless, a truly interesting and original take on the same sex marriage debate.

–Leigh Goodmark

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