Debating Marriage



From: Jon Rauch
Sent: Thursday, September 30, 2004 6:48 PM
To: EJ Graff
Subject: RE: Your 'Out' article

Thanks for such a thoughtful e-mail!

Our disagreements on marriage's place in society and gay life, etc. are indeed profound. No need to hash thru all that in e-mail. There's plenty of room in this debate for both of us.

What I'm mad about isn't that we disagree substantively, but that your review, I thought, wasn't fair either to me or to the disagreement. I won't harp on this beyond the next few sentences of this e-mail, because I've said my piece and it's time to move on. But I want to be clear about what ticked me off:

1) I've just gone back to your book, pp. 45 ff. I quote you at length and accurately. I then go on to say some of the same things you do, and one thing that you don't''marriage itself appears to be good for you''on my own authority, referring to the comparisons with cohabitation. I in no way attribute that to you.

I try to be very careful with quotes. If you'd said I misunderstood the evidence or overlooked a countervailing study from Denmark, fine. But you said I cited your book misleadingly. I don't think that's right in either sense. People are going to read that and think I'm a trickster. Integrity counts, and in our business it's all we've got.

2) Now that I understand better where you're coming from, I understand better what you thought you were getting at when you summarized my book as 'attempt[ing] to persuade the conservative commentariat that same-sex marriage can roll us all back to the 1950s.' You meant, more or less, 'Due to economic forces that won't change, marriage will never again be unique in its bonding power or its social status, and that's as it should be''or whatever. But what I got out of the sentence you wrote, and what most readers will get, is something more like, 'Rauch is pandering to reactionaries by claiming that same-sex marriage will help undo 50 years of social progress toward inclusion and equality.' I think to most people, especially readers of Out, that's what 'back to the 1950s' means.

Lord knows I've missed nuances in the ceaseless battle to cut words. But I do try to give a fair and accurate characterization of the book I'm reviewing, in however many words I use. (Especially if I disagree.)

All right, I'm over it. You should know that in all my life I have never before written a private note to a reviewer in disagreement. I get my share of dumb and underhanded reviews, but I don't care what a dumb or underhanded reviewer thinks, as long as they spell my name right. I wrote to you because I admire your work, care what you think, and want to view you as someone who is careful and thoughtful and aboveboard.

Thanks for this exchange'& see ya around.

Best, -j.

From: EJ Graff
Sent: Thursday, September 30, 2004 8:01 PM
To: EJ Graff
Subject: RE: Your 'Out' article

Hey, Jonathan. I see your points. Neither of those things was what I thought my sentences were implying (and I did feel I was quoted misleadingly). I did not mean to be cheap or quick, truly.

I understand about being misrepresented. A couple of feminists whose work I admire tremendously really attacked my book. It hurt, but there it was; they hated what I said. Thanks for the respect intentionally implied in actually writing to me about it (if that sentence makes sense).

See you on the circuit,


To purchase E.J. Graff's What is Marriage For? The Strange Social History of Our Most Intimate Institution click here.

To purchase Jonathan Rauch's Gay Marriage: Why It Is Good for Gay, Good for Straights, and Good for America go to here.