The Public Interest

What marriage is

Michael Novak

Summer 2004

COMMON sense suggests it is better for homosexually oriented persons to settle into permanent relationships than to have multiple partners. But can such relationships become marriages7 I do not believe that they can. Jonathan Rauch makes the affirmative case, and puts forth the best argument I’ve seen in its favor. But even granting the scientific and philosophical assumptions that undergird his recent book on the subject, the argument cannot stand.  His key assumptions—that homosexuals have a fixed nature that inclines them toward same-sex relationships; that this nature is involuntary and unchangeable; that it prevents homosexuals from being other than homosexual; and that it is the same sort of nature as what makes heterosexuals the way they are—rest on unsettled scientific and philosophical foundations. However, I am willing to grant them for the sake of brevity. The key problems in Rauch’s case have less to do with such matters, and more to do with his underlying philosophy of secular humanism. 

Download a PDF of the full article.



from the


A weekly newsletter with free essays from past issues of National Affairs and The Public Interest that shed light on the week's pressing issues.


to your National Affairs subscriber account.

Already a subscriber? Activate your account.


Unlimited access to intelligent essays on the nation’s affairs.

Subscribe to National Affairs.