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Marriage, when it's right (and usually when it's wrong), is a subject that stirs strong feelings. Gay marriage inspires its own set of passions, with opponents decrying it as a step that will undermine the very fabric of society while supporters posit it as an inevitable next stage in step-by-step acceptance of homosexuality by mainstream America. Appearing as the issue heats ups following President George W. Bush's call for a constitutional amendment that would block the gathering tide of gay nuptials, this polemic by Atlantic Monthly/National Journal writer Jonathan Rauch deftly walks a fine line, both personalizing the subject (Rauch is a gay man with a longtime lover and a lifelong wistful attitude about marriage) and addressing it with an intellectual poise informed by historical and philosophical perspectives. Rauch actually supports the steady-as-she-goes, state-by-state advancement of gay marriage, believing that "same sex marriage will work best when people accept and understand it, whereas a sudden national enactment, where it suddenly to happen, might spark a culture war on the order of the abortion battle." Might? It says a lot about Rauch's temperance that he doesn't forecast an inevitably fractious future for the nation while it sorts through the implications of gay weddings. There are more impassioned perspectives on the issue, but Rauch's positive approach advances the issue with a welcome coolheadedness that actually suits the controversy. This is, after all, a fight over the right of traditional outsiders to engage in an inherently conservative institution. --Steven Stolder [via]