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Just Marriage

Mary Lyndon Shanley
Edited by Joshua Cohen and Deborah Chasman

Publication Date - 23 September 2004

ISBN: 9780195176261

128 pages
5-1/2 x 8-1/4 inches

Debates the public importance of private unions.


From the ground breaking legal decisions on gay marriage to the promotion of marriage for low-income families, the "sacred institution" of marriage has turned into a public battleground. Who should be allowed to marry and is marriage a public or private act? Should marriage be abandoned completely? Or should marriage be redefined as a civil institution that promotes sexual and racial equality?

As the fierce national debate over same-sex marriage and civil unions continues, Mary Lyndon Shanley argues that while the state should continue to play a role in regulating personal relations, the law must be fundamentally reformed if marriage is to become a more just institution. Fourteen prominent writers and thinkers respond, including Nancy F. Cott, William N. Eskridge, Jr., Amitai Etzioni, Martha Albertson Fineman, and Cass R. Sunstein.

About the Author(s)

Mary Lyndon Shanley is the Margaret Stiles Halleck Professor of Political Science at Vassar College. Her most recent book is Making Babies, Making Families.


"The book is closer to a real conversation than many other anthologies that make such a claim.... But I came to think that the extreme brevity might be useful if it generates further discussion. It is not a bad thing to go away hungry for more. Shanley rehearses sharply and concisely the view of marriage that came to the United States from British tradition....Meanwhile this small book offers to activists and nonactivists a fine introduction, and provocation, to serious debate."--Perspectives on Politics

"Just Marriage should be of particular interest to those who teach and work in the areas of democratic theory, family law, women's studies and gender politics. The text is accessible reading for undergraduate and graduate students, alike. It would be particularly valuable in a democratic theory course as a vehicle for showing students a modern application of liberal thought."--The Law and Politics Book Review

"It is difficult for disagreements about the public meaning of marriage to be reasonable today. Mary Shanley sets the tone with strong views reasonably stated, and her interlocutors follow her example. This is an articulate and timely conversation!"--Iris Marion Young, author of Inclusion and Democracy

"Coming from diverse perspectives, these provocative essays probe beneath the surface of the marriage debates to ask radical questions about marriage itself-not only who should marry, but why marriage should be privileged above other relationships. Just Marriage will help those interested in reforming marriage think more deeply about the public's stake in marriage and marriage's place in society."-Dorothy Roberts, author of Shattered Bonds: The Color of Child Welfare

"Shanley's argument strives for equity and the full grantof citizenship for gay and lesbian people seeking to enter a civil marriage commitment while doing justice to the qualms that many different kinds of people have about marriage. Whatever one thinks of its merits, the debate it sparks presents a fresh and supportive alternative to the public conversation on same-sex marriage."-Urvashi Vaid, former executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force

Table of Contents

    Part I
    Just Marriage: On the Public Importance of Private Unions, Mary Lyndon Shanley
    Part II
    The Public Stake, Nancy F. Cott
    Marriage: Love or Care?, Joan C. Tronto
    Of Federalism and Caste, Cass R. Sunstein
    Why Marriage?, Martha Albertson Fineman
    Mystification, Neutrality, and Same-Sex Couples in Marriage, David B. Cruz
    The Relational Case for Same-Sex Marriage, William N. Eskridge Jr.
    A Communitarian Position for Civil Unions, Amitai Etzioni
    Between Justice and Commitment, Milton C. Reagan Jr.
    Just Monogamy?, Elizabeth F. Emens
    The Public Supports of Love, Drucilla Cornell
    After Marriage, Wendy Brown
    Beyond Marriage, Brenda Cossman
    Why We Should Disestablish Marriage, Tamara Metz
    Part III
    Afterword, Mary Lyndon Shanley

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