Take Elizabeth Marquardt, for example. Elizabeth is a 33-year-old mother, wife, feminist and lifelong Democrat. "I've always known gays and lesbians -- school, workplaces, neighbors. I find really repellent those who think it is a sinful lifestyle, and I don't want to be identified with them," she says.
She is a child of divorce, so she certainly knows marriage is not perfect. In fact, as an affiliate scholar at the Institute for American Values in New York City, she is in the middle of an important research project on the consequences of divorce for the spiritual, moral and emotional development of children.
So when she actually read the Massachusetts Supreme Court decision giving gays and lesbians the right to marry, how did she feel?
"Really angry. I didn't expect to feel that," she tells me. Why? "It really offended me the justices so confidently stated that marriage is about the adult commitment and not children. They didn't seem to give a hoot about children at all. The only children they mentioned were those living with gay and lesbian parents in need of legal protection. I agree with that, but that's not the end of the discussion."
Elizabeth Marquardt supports civil unions, but draws the line at redefining marriage. There is a big chunk of Americans out there who agree: They are not sexual traditionalists across the board. They mostly accept what might be called the liberal understanding of homosexuality. They support various legal protections for gays and lesbians. And a lot of times, they can't quite put their finger on what is making them so queasy about same-sex marriage.
Elizabeth can. She has spent much of her career studying marriage as a social institution. Because she speaks (I think) for so many, it is worthwhile hearing what she perceives as a neglected point of view, lost in the culture war rhetoric on both sides.
The court, she says, was dismissive of social science evidence of the importance of children and families, and of those who disagree with its position. "This is the same kind of nasty name-calling you see in the media sometimes, but I didn't expect it of supreme court justices," says Elizabeth.
Maggie Gallagher is a nationally syndicated columnist, a leading voice in the new marriage movement and co-author of The Case for Marriage: Why Married People Are Happier, Healthier, and Better Off Financially.