April 16, 2015
David Blankenhorn and Jonathan Rauch —
The Future of Marriage

What would it take to make our national encounter with gay marriage redemptive rather than divisive? David Blankenhorn and Jonathan Rauch came to the gay marriage debate from very different directions — but with a shared concern about the institution of marriage. Now, they’re pursuing a different way for all of us to grapple with the future of marriage, redefined. They model a fresh way forward as the subject of same-sex marriage is before the Supreme Court.

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is founder and president of the Institute of American Values. He's also co-director of The Marriage Opportunity Council. His books include The Future of Marriage.

is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and co-director of The Marriage Opportunity Council. He's a contributing editor to The Atlantic and National Journal, and the author of Gay Marriage: Why It Is Good for Gays, Good for Straights, and Good for America.

Pertinent Posts

Last week, in a somewhat surprising move, the LDS Church issued a statement seeking to do more to recognize and respect LGBT people and families. In this smart essay, David Blankenhorn sees this announcement as a good, "morally right" step, despite objections from those pulling from the Culture War Handbook.

Selected Video

In the Room with David Blankenhorn and Jonathan Rauch

Watch the entire public discussion between Krista and her two guests at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs on the campus of the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, Minnesota. And see what people were seeing in our interactive chat as the event unfolded.

About the Image

Jonathan Rauch (L) and David Blankenhorn (R) in dialogue at the Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota.

Photo by Paula Keller

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The Civil Conversations Project is sponsored by the John C. Danforth Center on Religion and Politics, and the Lilly Endowment.

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I would like to preface my comment by saying that I am someone who has, only recently, come to the conviction that gay marriage should be permitted. At the same time, as a christian, I understand the source of much of the resistance to this idea. That said, I wanted to share an interesting reaction that I had while listening to the unedited interview today. At one point Jonathan Rauch said, in response to a remark about how some poll recently showed that the majority of people in the country are in favor of gay marriage: "that's right - we are the moral majority now" (I may not have the quote exactly right). Immediately, I reacted to this by thinking "I wish he had not phrased his response in that way". And I thought that reaction was primarily because the words "moral majority" are so readily associated with Jerry Falwell and evangelical Christians who are so adamantly opposed to the idea of gay marriage. But, almost immediately, I began to wonder if my reaction didn't have more to do with the word "moral" than the word "majority" or even with those two words together. I realized that I still have some work to do in being clear about my own feelings on the issue as, perhaps, many others do as well. Thank you for, as always, a thought provoking discussion on such a difficult and important topic.

So apparently "speaking civilly" means contritely bowing to elite opinion. No thanks. There are actual civil conversations going on all over the country. This is not one of them.

No, Phil, it does not. As stated so well during the interview, it's about recognizing with humility that you might be wrong, and your counterpart might have a point. It's about believing that above and beyond getting your way, the most important thing is that we find a way to respectfully live together. I understand that on this issue of gay marriage many people have trouble seeing how that's possible--but that doesn't make it impossible. I take the view that if you have a moral belief against gay marriage, maintain that belief; but recognize that others have the precise opposite belief, equally based on morality and social good, and that in a pluralistic society our obligations are to treat each other with respect, and to passionately but respectfully try to persuade the other of the correctness of our belief. That Blankenhorn was persuaded by Rauch is not an act of civility but a product of it.

To be frank: whether you realize it or not, you're lying. And so is Krista. This series is pointless. What you say above is well and good (and true) but you will only hold to it so long as the arc of change is in your favor. The type of "civility" on display so far in this series means only that the powerless side in the debate is "heard" and patted on the head and invited to change. Again, the elites of America can go to Hell.

Krista Tippet is an episcopalian, and nine times out of ten that is a wonderful thing. But on gay "marriage," she an i part ways. Her idea of a civil conversation on this,as Phil said above, is for us to cave in to current elite opinion. Thank God for the Orthodox and Catholics, who'll never cave in on this one. People who have no interest in raising children and undergoing the asceticism of child rearing and pursuing theosis in a monogamous union based on sexual complimentarity, just as it's been for the last 2000 years, have no business even being listened to. I am in the process of burning my civil marriage license and getting married in the Orthodox church, where sanity prevails.

I watched the video. David Blankenhorn seemed to be
having a conversation with himself as much as he was
with Krista, Jonathon or the audience. This is such a
difficult subject for heterosexuals. It goes against
almost all of our experience until we actually meet
and get to know someone who is not like us in their sexual attractions.
At some point we realize they are exactly like us
in the things we care most about. Then all we have to do is
‘buck’ all of our upbringing, our family and maybe our friends,
our physical experience and possibly our religion.

Is that all?

What an absolutely touching program! The respect that was demonstrated in the conversation sets an example for all of us. It has taken me a lifetime of more than 60 years to even approach the level of civil discussion shared by the presenters. It is interesting that the journey that Mr. Blankenhorn shared is similar to one I have taking over my many years of life. I am pleased to say I share his current position though I can not state it near as elegantly.

I love the part on compromise: "There are higher values above what each of us want... and it is our duty as citizens to find ways to live together." Not knowing is not a weakness.

There are so many great nuggets of goodness in this interview.

Great dialogue Krista! Thank you for enlightening me today.

So far, it is a very interesting type of back-and-forth, but honestly it's a little black and white. Defining marriage as just for reproduction and then using that one definition to back a whole arguement is a little short-sighted. I may be a romantic, but marriage is supposed to be for love, and who is to argue what sex, race, or age has the ability to love one another? Honestly, I'm glad you guys have been able to have civil conversations, but the institution of marriage doesn't need fixing, just a quick definition change. Marriage is an adaptable idea that is a social construct. If marriage is broken, it's the problem of the society that we live in and what that society has done in shaping marriage. This suppositive 50% divorce rate isn't due to a broken system, and allowing gays to enter into that system purely to stabilize it is missing the really problem. A relationship can't be broken down into components, like you guys are doing, and therefore it can't pushed into some pretty little box. Anyone should be allowed to get married simply because everyone should have the right to be happy, to be able to sit beside someone you love in the hospital, and to live your life without having to be scorned for wanting love. There we go, no components, just a want for happiness.

Hi Sarah, I do not know anything about you, your age, or your marital status. I have been married 8 years, and have 2 daughters. I believe that unfortunately some couples have grown to places where the relationship is unfixable, but those are the least. I have had very difficult times in my marriage, and the reasons I am still married is not romantic love, but a sense of commitment and responsibility for my actions. As a man, it would have been very easy for me to say "i"m not in love anymore, I'm out of here" like the supposed 50% has done. It was my commitment to not let my wife and daughters live a life of poverty, the belief that is better for children to have 2 parents under the same roof, and that it would be easier for me to be a better person if I stay in the marriage. Thanks to that, my marriage is still a work in progress, with the chance to becoming better every day.
It was said in the conversation that women are born to be mothers, but men need help. The idea of romantic love, the false 20th century belief that one must always feel in love and be happy all the time, it is not helpful for men. When I was in the depths of sadness and anxiety, many nights laying in bed wondering why life has not developed the way I have planned, the idea of romantic love always drove me to the conclusion that I should abandon the marriage to pursue happiness in other women. I also want no pity from anybody because I was sad and anxious with my marriage, because almost all men, straight or gay, have been through that, and unfortunately, many have chose to follow their belief of love as instant gratification.
I am glad you have heard this show, because it means you care. At this moment comes to my mind the interview with the Dalai Lama about happiness, or to a guy who translated Rumi, as podcast to expand on the notions of love and happiness.
I hope you don't take my response as aggressive or insulting. I see myself in your comment, and I just want to be of help.

Alejandro, this is very late and I only now watched this interesting show, but I think Sarah talked about love in a broad way not limited to romantic love or to the fleeting experience of falling in love, which has a time-clock built into it. Your rich experience describes I think what Sara was advocating: love as a choice, a commitment, a responsibility, a sacrifice. I think Sarah's broader point was that these more mature kinds of levels of love can be learned with either gender AND with or without children. I think an implication of what Sarah says is that preserving marriage for its reproductive value actually keeps the debate limited, and more importantly, alienates very important parts of what it means to be human since being human is not limited to procreating. It may include reproducing like all other animals, but being co-creative seems to me a more inclusive and helpful goal: co-creative with friends, family, self, the earth and God. Because we have a physical body AND and an intellect, a psyche and a soul, reproducing in all these levels of life and love will get us to the happiness that so many beings like the Dalai Lama and Rumi embody. We can take a cue from them in fact. These wise beings were sometimes married and sometimes not. They sometimes had children and sometimes not. The odds are, (and research bears this out) some of these saints and sages were homosexuals, transvestites, transgendered, bisexual or some other subaltern category. What a wonderful world we live in.

So how do you have an honest argument on a topic in which both participants are in agreement?

Ths seems an indication that On Being is so insecure about whether 'gay marriage' is a good thing, that it has to present the traditional view in the past tense now that both participants in the conversation are in agreement!

How dishonest and ridiculous is that. Marriage is what David Blankenhorn originally believed and stated it is...a way to bind the three entities, mothers, children and fathers, for their good and the good of society. It predates governments and should not be subject to endless redefinition and repurposing to suit adults at the expense of children.

If each new generation came into being like Athena, springing full grown from the heads of the previous generation, there would be no need for marriage at all. David Blankenhorn gave it away himself...saying during the Prop. 8 hearing that he's too much of a liberal to stick to his own beliefs. He's nothing but a traitor to the cause, abandoning the needs of children to the desires of adults. Disgusting!

Thank you. You provided me with a joyous hour this Sunday morning -- given our current times. Two people, initially from very polar situations, yet each with a deep concern and passion about our society and country, working together to find some kind of appropriate action and understanding to benefit us all. What a lesson for all of us: to listen, truly listen with open hearts and minds, in the search for and the acceptance of some kind of truth for our betterment.
Thank you, indeed.

I found this dialogue to be incredibly thought provoking. Yes the surface topic was Gay Marriage, but it was much deeper. It also touched on our ability as human beings to engage with one another. The power of doubt in our lives and how it's not a weakness and doesn't have to detract from conviction and purpose is a lesson that is so important, but currently is counter intuitive to how our culture defines success and leadership.

I was disappointed when the dialogue ended.

Thank You!

This show was so much more than whether the two gentlemen now agree or not as addressed by a previous commenter. This is about RESPECTFUL, honest discourse from opposing views (that is where they both started) which they both had learned through this process. Civility is never about "winning" the other over, rather it's about the process of holding the possibility that we can learn from the other and, yes, even change.

This was a moving conversation in so many ways, and I have taken many lessons from it. I deeply admire both Rauch and Blankenhorn for the way they have approached the issue with integrity, openness, and human imperfection. It touched on so many issues beyond marriage, especially the importance of knowing people unlike yourself--the power of friendship and relationship to break through impasses and to expand our thinking. Among the many take-home messages, for me, is how crucially important it is to the future of our society that we break down the residential segregation that is so prevalent in our country. If a single friendship can transform these mens' thinking so powerfully towards civility and humility, imagine the effect of Americans having neighbors of diverse economic levels, ethnic backgrounds, faiths, abilities, sexualities, political convictions, etc. There's a lot of dismissive talk about superficial "diversity," but this conversation demonstrates just what a powerfully positive effect it can have for everyone involved.

Beyone its valuable insights and empowering, respectful tone of this discussion, I'm especially struck by one panelist's parallel between doubt and respect. I've struggled with owning my own uncertainties, and have concluded that they're part and parcel of being an aware, curious, evolving human being. But I've never made this connection, that being unsure about oneself and one's "truths" gives others the gift of being able to shine in their own ways, and ultimately giving them the chance, now and then, to be "right." With the marriage debate -- and so many others -- this wisdom is the way of the future.

Am I right in saying that you managed to find two people who favor homosexual marriage, that one person changed his mind? Can't find someone against it?

Trent Gilliss's picture

Hi Ed. Of course we could find someone in vocal opposition to the same-sex marriage, but this was not our only primary criteria.

We wanted to broaden the scope of the debate -- to not just make it about same-sex marriage but about the institution of marriage itself: what it means to heterosexual and homosexual men and women, why it's such a lightning rod of an issue and why it's worth fighting for, and how we can discuss one of the underpinning institutions of U.S. society in the context of the larger debate taking place currently. Also, for each Civil Conversations Project event, we found one person we wanted to speak with. Then we asked each of them to suggest a person from the opposing side of an issue that they'd like to have a deeper conversation with. In this case, Jonathan Rauch suggested David Blankenhorn, a vocal opponent of same-sex marriage for many years who is concerned about the erosion of the institution of marriage.

In essence, we editorially opted for a more subtle conversation that's ensuing among the two men rather than pitting two people to just duke it out. There are plenty of forums to hear these types of necessary discussions. To some degree, we focused on the theme of our project, "civil conversations," and the way they can be had by two people at odds with one another.

What an excellent forum and discussion. I am not gay, but recognize the rights to love and cherish anyone you want to. I apologize for the first ? from the audience. I could not understand why the gentleman who was asking the ?, didn't filter that one out.

The answer given, after the astonishment that the first ? would be that, and others had submitted it too, has shown how far our country has diminished in terms of respect for others and their beliefs.

Actually, the first question--about how a SSM could be consummated--was very insightful. It actually went right to the heart of the matter that marriage is about the reconciliation of opposites and the complementarity of the sexes, which leads to the procreation of children. Marriage by its very definition and essence cannot occur between two persons of the same sex. And of course, at common law, a marriage unconsummated by natural coition was subject to annulment.

The fact that the question took Jonathan Rauch aback was also quite telling. Then he took umbridge, asking something to the effect whether all the questions were like that. He followed that up with a number of points, but he never really answered the question because a real answer is fatal to his point of view.

And because of this you got to a NUGGET of the conversation not yet uncovered to me. For this I am grateful.

I have many people in my life who are gay. The understanding that opened up for me today was this one, when Jonathan Rauch talked about his moment at the piano bench considering his lonely life ahead. Knowing he was gay, he didn't dread the sex or the humiliation of locker room teasing, he was anticipating the emptiness of life without a FAMILY. Kathunk. I got something so deep with that understanding and now I know why so many in my life have first chosen traditional marriage and only later in life have "come out" of the closeted life. The prospect of missing out on children and all that means was simply too lonely.

When we wipe away the option of traditional Thanksgiving dinners in November and Sundays in the park as well as hospital visits, we force people into closets just as surely as when we ask them questions about "how do you consummate that marriage?"

The civility and doubt took me much deeper than mere head butting. But I expected no less from all of you.

One last thing: was it David Blankenhorn who said that becoming friends with a gay man influenced his thinking? Powerful stuff.

"... Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that 'homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered' (CDF, Persona Humana 8). They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved." Catechism of the Catholic Church, #2357.

Thank you for the show today. Unlike Blankenhorn -- and this is likely generational -- I am a practicing and ordained Christian clergywoman and a professor, and have been pro-gay marriage for a very long time. It was good to hear the conversation and the civility of the dialogue.

However, I would like someone to let Mr. Blankenhorn know that, for many straight married couples, our inability to have children also ensures that any child brought into OUR families will not be the biological child of either parent, and that the biological mother and father will, largely, be absent. For those of use who choose domestic open adoption, this will likely be less of the case. But for the rest of us adoptive parents, I would ask him to be careful with that statement less, as he works this through, he invalidates heterosexual married adoptive parents also.

Thank you Krista for the wonderful service you do! I listened, cheering and clapping, while cooking alone in my kitchen. I wasn't always sure who the speaker was, because the content was balanced on the issue. Neither side was preaching or condescending. This dialogue gives me hope. I was delighted to hear that the conversation was in front of a seventh grade class! I'm grateful that you take on these important subjects, and create a respectful atmosphere. These discussions, I hope, create ripples of solutions- through civility- like a pebble tossed into the ocean, in ever widening circles.

Today my husband and I celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary - the one that took place in the courtroom; no family, no friends, no community - just love, witness, and law. We had another wedding to follow at church with family and friends - the promise of love "in sickness and in health" made public. The final vow was taken years later - at the Catholic Church - in the presence of our daughter...and my God.

Stuart reflected great points that spoke to me, too " As stated so well during the interview, it's about recognizing with humility that you might be wrong, and your counterpart might have a point. It's about believing that above and beyond getting your way, the most important thing is that we find a way to respectfully live together."

It is so true. And that is why I write. I understand the need for the human heart to love and to be loved, but with all due respect, there may be something here that may merit even deeper humility.

When I was in grade school, I was thinking on the playground. Thinking that if I ever had a child who was gay, there would be no choice but love. That is still the case today. But, my view on marriage has changed; I bent like a reed. Although I can love my child, friend, neighbor, gay and/or straight, I have no choice but to uphold the truth which I have lived. Marriage is a Holy Sacrament. No compromise. Our marriage has survived because of prayer and faith....even with love, if there were no God, we would not be seeing the fruits of today.

Just because man and woman are failing the promise and falling into asunder, that does not mean that the sacredness of the union between husband and wife does not exist.

I appreciated the dialogue that I heard taking place today and I hope it will continue in a spirit of peace. Thank you for sharing your hearts, thoughts and walks. This is how we learn and grow - heal - together.

I found this conversation to be a real gem. There were several passages in it - the empassioned statement of consumation of marriage, the statement about patriotism and compromise, and the importance of scepticism to faithful inquiry - to be worth carving on a wall somewhere.
I reflected upon the notion that both parties were in agreement, but realized that it probably would be impossible to capture the precise dialogue leading up to the point of Mr. Blankenhorn's change of heart.
There was a question from the audience that was not treated very deeply, the one about physical "fit" among different gender pairs vs. same gender pairs. The question led to a touching soliloquy about true love, which was nice. However, it could have been deepened by an exploration of the fear of the other, or the revulsion of the "different" that our historically closet-bound culture generated. The question about consummation is as legitimately asked of obese people who marry as it is of homosexuals - but we don't ask the question because obese people are normal and public in our culture, we may even have obese relatives. The governor of New Jersey is obese and no one questions his intimate life. Among the perversions that the closet wrought in our culture was the invisibility of normal gay relationships. Mr. Rauch hinted at this when he spoke of what he assumed his love life would be like (anonymous midnight liaisons) when he came to terms with his homosexuality. The consummation question was important because it was really based on an identical naivity to Mr. Rauch's, a naivity grounded in invisibility rather than mean-spiritedness. Oddly the destruction of the closet is likely the source of the swing in opinion measured in polls - relationships that are visible are conceivable to the disinterested bystander. Andrew Sullivan's article from the late 90s on "Life and Death" (adoption and the AIDS epidemic) being the genesis of the modern movement for marriage was probably the most prescient on this topic.
What was missing was a real exploration of what the scriptures say that underpins gay marriage or acts as an analogy to it. Either party could have drawn on the example of Ruth and Naomi or Paul and Silas - same sex couples who formed "family" and shared their mission in life together (absent the sexual aspect) or Jesus's great commission that we should go out into the world in pairs. Analogy is perfectly appropriate, since the basis of the sacramental treatment of marriage is the analogy that Jesus made about marriage (though John Calvin had fun with that notion in the Institutes of the Christian Religion). Or perhaps most suitably Genesis 2:18 The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” What does "suitable for him" mean, and in some cases is suitable another man?
Aside from the one question being short changed and the lack of a deeper exploration of the tradition from within the tradition I thought it was a great show.

When I listen to conversations like this I feel like my heart grows. Thank you

I am a weaver, and I listened to this conversation on my ipod as I wove about 15 feet of black fabric. I thought is was one of the most wonderful conversations I have heard in ages. Not only was the tenor wonderfully honest and civil, it was funny and moving. I found that though the topic was gay marriage, the conversation went way beyond that focus. It was a truly moving and beautiful example of how opposing sides can speak with each other (not to each other) in an understanding and congenial way. It was an example of how well talking and getting to know each other, and rejecting political stances for true communication and understanding, can work. I come down firmly on the side of gay marriage, so I guess it is no surprise that I was so moved by this. I think your Civil Conversations Project is SO important. It gives me a ray of hope for our future. If only we could all be so civil, thoughtful, and kind. Thank you thank you thank you, and well done.

This dicussion about marriage was disturbing. Because Blankenthorn had once defended marriage, he was displayed as the "other side" in the debate. Yet, as both ultimately have decided marriage as Western civilization knows has got to "go", they really are stating the same side from different starting points. The mutally adoring attiutude about their "englightened" understanding of what the conversation on "gay marriage" must look like, was insulting to all who disagree. In fact, the very idea of disagreeing with them was placed in the category of narrow-mindedness and intolerance. Blankenthorn does by no means represent the thoughtful, clearly-reasoned traditional marriage advocates. An institution as essential to Western Civilization as marriage between a man and woman deserves a real discussion with a Catholic intellectual who does not change his position based on the fact that the other side is nice.

People marry for many reasons, including: legal, social, being in love, libidinal, emotional, financial, spiritual, and religious. Marriages can be performed in a secular civil ceremony or in a religious setting

Arguments against gay marriage are never really about gay marriage itself. Rather, they are really about fears of usurping gender roles, gender hierarchy and terror at the prospect of taking responsibility for one's sexual urges. Let me explain. You'll notice that the conversation focuses on same-sex relations between men, rather than between two women (other than to ask, "Who's the man?" and endless fascination about how sexual relations occur when there's no penis involved).

Judeo-Christian ethics hold that women are figuratively and literally underneath men; the idea of a man submitting to another man in that same way connects men in a very real way with sexual dominance -- it means losing privilege. Secondly, in the existent social hierachy, men ultimately are not held responsible for their sexual behavior. Allowances are made for having external genitalia that makes hiding one's attractions impossible. Women (and children) are given the role of policing male sexual behavior, domesticating unbridled male sexuality, to enforce social order. This order is so powerful that entire institutions like the Catholic Church have sprung up around it, portraying themselves as the voice of God.

What I know is this -- gay men are on the leading edge of taking responsibility for sexual behavior and honest negotiations for its meaning in committted relationships. This has been a hard-wrought phenomenon, all the more admirable for existing despite threat of incarceration during the AIDS crisis, religious abuse and social degradation. Straight men who are worried about how they'll possibly be able to remain faithful to their wives when mariage equality comes to pass would do well to start listening to gay men for help.

In fact, straight people who worry about Biblical admonishments against same-sex relations would do well to ask GLBT persons for assistance in this matter, as many of us have spent years in earnest contemplation on these matters.

Blankenhorn and Rauch’s affirmation of the foundational significance of the institution of marriage in providing a strong and stable society surprised me. The election is now behind us, but during the campaign seasonI heard many arguments encouraging voters to “Vote No”. However, it seemed that the primary message was that gay couples wanted more rights and wanted to be treated equally. This did not make sense to me because I thought they really had achieved “rights”. During this discussion, Rauch made clear his commitment to the institution and did not really focus on rights at all.
Krista mentioned a civilizational shift and Blankenhorn agreed that the consensus of Americans has shifted with young people and elites favoring the “equal dignity of homosexual love,” and I don’t really think anyone questions that. However, the question for many Americans is whether the civilizational shift includes a moral shift that moves us closer toward an amoral society where relative values decide the right of an issue. I deeply question whether altering the definition of an historical institution that by everyone’s agreement provides stability to societies, especially for an admittedly small group of people is prudent. One website I reviewed estimated the gay population around 1.7% of the population. (Washington Times) Are we as Americans ready to restructure the definition of a marriage and entire family units to satisfy 1.7% of the population? Are we willing to usher in a civilizational shift for such a small group? And if this consensus is in motion and the tide has turned toward the societal recognition of gay marriages will the institution of marriage be “shored up” or will marriages and family units continue to disintegrate because of other societal pressures and ills or in the end will the number affected be so miniscule that there will be no discernible difference?
I have no doubt that this change will usher in a more progressive society but will the future of marriage be better, stronger as a result?

It is cool that they both seem to favor gay marriage honestly. Obviously Rauch was more for it than Blakenhorn... but Blakenhorn was more focused on trying to make sure that we as people, can strengthen all marriages before focusing so much on fighting against gay marriage. They did both attempt to bring an opposition to what each other were saying though. They seemed as if they had a good relationship and were trying to really make both points well established.

I personally am getting really sick of people who get married when they shouldn't. I am not right to judge, but there are some obvious problems that can be seen. I have a friend who always cheated on his girlfriend, then they just got married and he still cheats. Obviously they should not be married because of this. Also I have two friends who are married and they openly cheat on each other because one initially cheated and the other cheated right back. Now they just keep their business to themselves about it, but know that its happening. HOW MESSED UP IS THAT? I also have a friend who got married and her husband wants a divorce. He told me this and she knows this, but they wont divorce. Now they are dating others and they still live together? The divorce rate is rising constantly and we should take the focus off of the homosexual marriages and just try and make the right decisions ourselves. If its not personally effecting you, then let it be. People have the right to do what they want when it comes to who they love and want to be with.

I honestly did not expect the broadcast to be the way that it was. I thought it would go into greater depth and detail. I did find some interesting things that were brought up. Mr. Blankenhorn pointed out that before he changed his mind on his views on marriage he thought that "the biological, the legal and the social, cannot be done in a same-sex relationship." That is why he was against gay marriage.

according to the Bible we should treat others how we want to be treated. Ms. Tippett mentioned that the guidance that I believe Mr. Bkankenhorn gives to his bloggers is "Be rigorous, be powerful, be funny, but don't be mean." I think that no matter which side we take when it comes to single-sex marriage, we have to be respectful and not be mean about it.

My reaction to this interview is a bit tardy, but it has had a lasting effect in my mind. When I listened to the “debate” with David Blankenhorn and Jonathan Rauch, I was expecting more of a conversation with “you’re wrong” statements. Being a devout Christian with conservative views during the midst of a pivotal vote in Minnesota, human nature took over on wanting that heated debate that showed one side being wrong. And lets be honest, both sides wanted that during the marriage amendment vote. That is the very nature of debate. Instead, I listened to David talk about how we have destroyed marriage, which should be an eye opener to everyone. He is right!
While I will always remain steadfast in my conservative views, what David was talking about had more to do with what we have stripped from marriage. It is no longer viewed as a sacred bond that lasts until death. Of course, not all dissolutions are frivolous, but greater care should be used when entering into these unions. He had a brilliant argument with regard to how straight people have mucked up marriage and gay people couldn’t do any worse. I even had to agree with him there! My Christian morals stop me from supporting gay marriage but also from pointing my finger and saying “you are wrong.” Rather, I should be asking myself, “What are you doing to uphold the sanctity of marriage?”

I didn't listen to this dialogue because no women were involved in it. David Blankenhorn has never publicly renounced his view that the father should be the major moneymaker in the family and he has never supported egalitarian marriage. So I am always suspicious of anything that he does.

Since women usually make most of the career compromises in heterosexual marriage, it is unfair to have a "dialogue" on marriage just between two men, even if one of them is gay. Progressive, feminist women need to be leaders in the marriage dialogue and we should ALWAYS strive to marriage to be fair to all parties involved.

I do not think that marrage equality will lead to more egalitarian marriages, especially if the discussion is led by men. And most especially, if they have "spouses" who are doing most of the housework and childcare and making the career sacrifices.

Today's discussion, which I heard for the second time, prompted me to send in the following quote attributed to Aristotle............

"It is the Mark of an Educated Man to be able to Entertain a Thought with out Accepting it"

Perhaps this comment should be sent to our Senators and Representatives in Congress ! yours truly, Dolores Heinze

Civil discourse is what America and the world need to incorporate. The strict walls of dogma have no windows or doors to see possibilities beyond their boundaries. The boxes that are holding these beliefs are getting smaller and smaller while the tech, science and space frontiers are ever expanding into a new paradigm of possibilities. Hard edged beliefs are threatened like never before in human history. We all must help put windows in their fortified walls. Maybe civil discourse can be one of them. Like these two gentlemen, its up to the individual to install the doors. Hopefully, the walls will become nothing more than historical monuments as we all bask in the light of a garden that once was but a myth.

Thank you for continuing the conversation forward. I watched my gay son go through intense self-torture as he struggled to accept how he was born. So much pain, but discussions like those between Jonathan and David give me hope for a better future.

I love your show, Krista, and it looks from the comments I've seen that a majority of listeners liked this particular show. I, on the other hand, as a gay man married to a man on the day it became legal here in Massachusetts, found the show profoundly disappointing. Why you saw value in a conversation with two homophobes (one of whom happens to be gay) agreeing to agree with the overwhelming trend of public opinion escapes me. I understand your desire to promote civil discourse, and I consider it a laudable aim. But I question whether either true civility or real discourse can obtain when both participants are intellectually dishonest in such fundamental ways. I also question whether civil discourse can happen on this issue. In fact there are no valid arguments against gay marriage. The purported "moral" argument always boils down to "I don't like it." And the historical argument lacks moral force. I don't like guns, but in our society I have to respect the second amendment rights of others. And if we were condemned to follow history we would still have slavery.

This really was a lesson for all about compromise, respectful and intellectual debate, and attempting to understand and accept all those around us with diverse viewpoints, rather than a debate about gay marriage. That being said, gay marriage currently is, and will likely continue to be, the catalyst for this lesson for many years to come. It's important to note that "compromising" does not mean changing your opinion or standpoint. "Compromising" really is about accepting others' opinions. Through accepting those opinions, your own viewpoint might change. It seems all too common today that people/politicians will simply "stick to their guns" on an issue and not even entertain the idea that others might be right or have a valid opinion. Since any differing opinions get preemptively labeled in this way, it is impossible to actually hear what anyone else is saying.

It seems like most political debate in our country fails to “achieve disagreement,” but instead just reinforces the barriers that we have already constructed between ourselves and others. One of my favorite quotes from the episode is when Jonathan Rauch said “When I see someone who won't compromise, I see someone betraying the core purposes of our Constitution, which is to force compromise.” I think it is clear that that is how this country was designed, with a separation of powers so that people would have to compromise in order to get anything done. To quote Ronald Reagan, “my 80 percent friend is not my 20 percent enemy.”

I liked what Blankenhorn had to say about the relationship between civility and doubt. If you have even a slight amount of doubt about a belief of yours, that naturally leads you to be civil to someone with an alternate viewpoint because you see the value in their beliefs. They might have an insight or a perspective that will help you understand the issue better. But if you don't have any doubt about your stance on an issue, someone with an alternative viewpoint is completely useless to you. Nothing can be gained by talking to that person, so you are less likely to treat that person civilly.

Rauch opines gay marriage is good for for gays, straits and America. Notably missing is our creator, God. Or is he one who subscribes to our dragging our tails from the sea. So where is God in his equation. Such a book makes him the omniscient author..

Wow! I found this podcast to be very enlightening. Although they discussed gay marriage as one of the topics I felt that it was more about our society being able to coming together and to be able to live without judgment. I was very happy with the fact that the interviewees David Blankenhorn and Jonathan Rauch were able to have this discuss and keep negative emotion out of it. They discussed many aspects of marriage in today’s society and how 50% of marriages end in divorce. They talked about wanting to strengthen the intuition of marriage and that may not mean the traditional marriage as we have grown up knowing.
For me I feel that marriage should be about being with someone that you Love and respect, regardless of race, religion or sexual preference, which I feel all have been debated through history and to some extent still are. Some of their quotes that struck me while listening were, “Be rigorous, be powerful, but don’t be mean.” “Be nice; admit that there may be something that you don’t know.” And when having a discussion with someone that may get emotionally heated, before it gets to that point “know where you agree and disagree.” It would be so nice if people of all opinions could put aside their personal biases and would listen with an open mind to the thoughts and feelings of other people. Even if it was only temporarily and whether they agree or disagree, I feel that this would give people great insight into the thoughts and feelings, ideas and opinions of other people.

I've seen many political, religious, people, and bloggers debate about this issue for many years as well. To me- in hearing all of these debates, I myself thought the issue was just in black and white. One side meant you were for Gay marriage, the other side said it's wrong. There wasn't much detail to the ordeal. Unfortunately a lot of people just dis-credit the Christians because it's easier to do so. We can accept both sides, and come to an agreement to disagree and this is the part where this debate could have been better. The debate about marriage is more or less about the peoples beliefs and values, none of which are wrong- it's who they are and what they believe.

The government does incentivize marriage. I saw this click before in political debates and they were talking about tax breaks, visiting hours in the hospital, the health benefits, and the title of marriage. Marriage is also a legal institution through the government, but could also be a religious ceremony. The religious ceremony is the legal portion in the church, so once again I don't think it's fair to dis-credit any side. Because both sides could really have a support system through social groups. So I agree that support networks can take care of families and couples, but it can happen in both sides.

If the future of marriage were to change, and keeping in mind that there is separation of church, I think that's fine. People can agree to disagree on the issue, disagree with the values, etc. But it is important to consider those of religious background as well, and through separation of church and state- the church shouldn't have to comply with the future of marriage. If we respect everyone's values and beliefs this is the best way. I thought this discussion has proved that.

Not sure about western marriages but Indian marriages still survive.

What struck me most in this was the comments about "Doubt and the life of the mind"."If I have no doubts, I don't need you, I may be polite..." It reminded me so much of a blog post here by Parker Palmer and the poem that he put in it;

The Place Where We Are Right
by Yehuda Amichai

From the place where we are right
flowers will never grow
in the Spring.

The place where we are right
is hard and trampled
like a yard.

But doubts and loves
dig up the world
like a mole, a plough.
And a whisper will be heard in the place
where the ruined
house once stood.
That sums it up!

Jonathan Rauch's insight in not becoming the new oppressive majority reminds me of Nelson Mandella. Excellent podcast.

I woke up this morning to this show being aired on my clock radio. I found myself at 6:30 am pulling out my tablet to do research on these two speakers. I am so happy to hear this issue debated and discussed in a rational way. My partner of 15 years died last year - two months short of our wedding. We were both so happy to be able to finally get married. As I held him in my arms moments after his death the first thought in my head was that he died without this one last dignity of validation. We shared an amazing relationship, contributed greatly to our church and community. We welcomed so many people into our home and we brought so much love and support into our extended families. I have found that people have trouble getting past the reconciliation in their heads about homosexuality being a valid form of love - because they don't understand it and because they can't get past the sexual aspects of homosexual relationships. Those people have trouble admitting that love can be the foundation of marriage.

Really? The "think of the children" argument? Please. That's been disproven and is a logical crutch as well. Interesting tactic to appeal to the liberals' collaborative nature, but you are wolves in sheep's clothing. No. Face that you are on the losing side of history.

This discussion might be more interesting if the interlocutors were people who still disagreed on the issue under discussion.

Eric, i think you missed, closer to the beginning of the hour, where David was trying to explain his original opposition to gay marriage and where Jonathan sorta interjected where they **don't** see marriage the same, w.r.t. children.

i thought the discussion was quite interesting.

In very base terms, marriage contracts were created to sell women, as property, to men for the propagation and protection of children, and thus, create families to help provide for the survival of the species. The idea of romantic love did not enter our lexicon until after the Middle Ages. Business issues are still connected to marriage, and will probably always be an aspect of survival discourse. However, successful propagation is no longer a mystery and in most modern civilizations, women are recognized as human beings with equal rights. Hence, it is tantalizing to me that our society, once again, finds itself in the middle of a discussion about the ramifications of the equality of human beings. I find it hopeful that despite the changes in biological requirements, mankind still yearns for family and community. Despite our natural fear of change, it appears we are organically evolving to create new kinds of families that maintain mankind's crucial needs for love, human connectivity, and perhaps through discussion, a civilized society.

"Discrimination" is a part of every person's daily life. I believe that the government should have no role in regulating marriage, it is a religious and personal ceremony between 2 people, gay or straight. Business owners deciding to not cater to a certain group is the sole loss of that business owner. They punish themselves by narrowing their market.

I loved this show. I believe strongly in the power and importance of respectful dialogue. There is knowledge in empathy, understanding and wisdom that can only be achieved through a conversation founded in tolerance at least this is what I believe. Something that is damaging our society is this belief that we can achieve some sort of pinnacle of culture through PROVING which belief set is THE BEST; that we can somehow find the one best way to RAISE a CHILD, THE best ways to RUN society etc, by PROVING everyone else wrong and our one true answer as correct. It is as though everything, all ideas, all social constructs, all fop our human creations are some kind of competition and if we win we get a prize. When we treat ideas and objects as more important than human beings, we breed cruelty, human suffering, and social disintegration. When we treat each other with respect in our disagreements we breed kindness, and I love that these two men did this.
I don't, however, agree completely with either one of them. Marriage is an important human institution. I do believe that marriage SHOULD be supported and encouraged, however, all these social ills being dumped on the lap of marriage is an oversimplification.Research shows that when mother's who are supported by society whether married or not do not have the levels of poverty or illness and that their children are much healthier and well adjusted. When you examine countries that changed their social polices to HELP all families and ALL children, such as Norway, you find much much lower levels of poverty directly correlated to when they changed the policies.
I find the discussion very simplified,and I could go on and on about it, but I am thrilled that they are having civil discussion and that there is a series encouraging this. One of the biggest threats to our social institution and ability to function as a society is the inability to talk to each other. We need as many projects like this as we can get.

What has been totally absent from any debate is information on the physiological impact of gay sexual relations. Does anyone have information on this important aspect? Aditionally, "gay marriage" necessarily involves, in all cases without exception, recourse to a third person in order to "produce" semi-biologically related offspring. What does this say about the basic morality of these unions--that they are inherently adulterous? Perhaps because this word (adulterous) is so loaded, we may have to find an alternative which will not be so offensive.
Thank you for a serious consideration of these important questions.

Sadly, I think the guests are too late to save marriage. Many boomers found that divorce was too easy and have gone on to build relationships after that that never result in marriage, partially due to governmental interference. They raised many of their offspring that way as well. I personally never married but have been with my boyfriend for over 15 years. In my age range (late 30s) and circle of peers, this is the norm. Many younger than I have expressed that they will never marry, and they don't feel any less fulfilled. I once felt exactly the way the guests do, that marriage should be the core of a family, but I've simply discovered that life didn't end without that marriage license. Maybe we need to be more realistic? After all, it's working for the pope so why not modern US society?

Despite the wonderful work done in recognizing the value of marriage by the Institute for American Values, I cannot support the idea of same-sex marriage. We are created male and female for a purpose. The bond of marriage is the only human relationship that encompasses ALL of the four loves enunciated by C. S. Lewis - affection, friendship, eros and agape. Whereas all human relationships, homo- or hetero-sexual are built around all but eros, humanity is sustained by the physical love between man and women in the proper context we recognize as marriage. Confusion about this reality arises from confusion about who is a creature and Who is the Creator and what is the truth. Two plus two is still four regardless of how we define the number base, either binary, decimal or something else. Must we love our neighbor? Certainly. But does doing so demand that we ignore how we are made?

Two thoughts: first, this was so much better than your previous attempt to bring together two diametrically opposed leaders in a "civil" discussion. I can't recall who those individuals were, but through the radio I could hear the antipathy of the anti-gay gentleman. Second, I can understand someone admitting that she/he has belonged to a traditional church where gay = sin. But really, to say, "As a Christian, I cannot accept LGBT people," (or behaviors --qualify it however you will). Excuse me, what exactly did Jesus Christ have to say about LGBT people?

This (great) conversation is making a giant assumption: that marriage has and been only one thing up until now. Calling marriage an "institution" reinforces this. Feminism, for one, redefined marriage: we don't still consider marriage the exchange of women as property, do we? The "institution" of marriage that they are trying to defend is a relatively historically new phenomenon. I appreciated that Krista asked us to pause and realize how "huge" this shift is. However, by placing that burden on gay marriage, it magnifies it and erases the much-shifting nature of marriage for millennia. Gay marriage is symptomatic of the institution's previous shifts (from property exchanges to bourgeois notions of love and domestic space). So in that way, it's not such a huge shift. Thanks.

Let me give you another viewpoint on heterosexual marriage. My parents, mother & father, made every day of my life a living hell. Doctors are constantly telling me that I should not have survived. I live with the physical effects of multiple concussions and other injuries as well as the psychological effects of the trauma. I make it through each day by promising myself suicide if I just can't take it any more. Unfortunately children live, and die, in these circumstances every day because society and the courts believe that the biogical parents are the best ones to raise a child. Just because a couple can create a child do not assume they will raise it with love.

There are two main types of brains and thinking: Progressive, and Conservative. These types are operating at any level of connectivity between human beings, be it 2 friends, or 5 pastors, or a small town, or large city, or a nation. These mindsets work in committees, groups, volunteer organizations, government entities of any kind and size. The culture of regions and nations will also be under this concept of progressive, and conservative. Progressive minds do not see change as risk, but as open opportunity, therefore they do not fear the risk that change brings. Conservative minds see change as risk, something to fear, because it could lead to failure on all kinds of levels. So when we discuss LBGTQ marriage, we must always keep these two mindsets in the forefront because they undermine all discussion and beliefs. Even highly educated people who have conservative mindsets will not see the logic of the civil freedom and equality before the law concerning an LBGTA marriage, which is a huge principle in our democratic society. Fear of change, and risk that legalized gay marriage will send our nation to perdition is a risk that the conservative mind will not take. Progressive minds understand that taking a risk will not be dangerous, but instead, is an open opportunity to make a situation better, and if it does not, that it can be nullified, or tweaked to try again and again, until it's where it should be. Conservative mindsets resist change unless it's closed opportunity that has guaranteed success to better themselves, their lifestyle, their homes, property, and existing values. Conservative minds do not fear risk where change favors them unconditionally. We see this with infants, children, teens, young adults and adults. However, age can have an impact on a progressive mind; the older the progressive mind, the greater the pull toward conservativism because the risks they take have more severe impact, and start to carry with them fear... fear of losing independence, fear of losing good health, fear of losing a nimble mind. Now, saying all that above, and overlaying that on top of discussions concerning gay marriage, we can see where there is the possibility that conservative minds will never change because of fear, and fear is one of the most powerful attributes affecting human behavior: always has, always will. What does that mean for gay marriage? It means that, as with any civil freedom, our courts must continue to press on to beat down laws created by conservative mindsets, many of whom, use a few scriptural passages as their trump card to guard against allowing civil freedom for all people. Since conservative religious groups are hostile toward allowing civil freedom to be enabled, and push their legislators to agree with them, then justice (not laws) must intervene.

. . . re: Brianstrimen: and "beat down" individuals and institutions who don't agree that gay marriage is moral?

This interview sparked my interest because of my views on this subject. I have always had strong views that those who are gay most certainly have the right to get married. I always thought that people who opposed this view were hateful in a way.I just didn't understand how they couldn't see that everyone deserves the same rights. While listening to this interview, and hearing how patient Jonathan was with David, it made me rethink my feelings towards those who do not agree with me on this subject. I also liked the point that was brought up about everyone has to share this country. And although I was never rude towards anyone for disagreeing with me, I still shouldn't have such negative feelings about some of my peers.