Why Elizabeth Brake's "Minimizing Marriage" is Wrong


Scott Yenor reviews Elizabeth Brake's new book "Minimizing Marriage" for Public Discourse:

Elizabeth Brake’s Minimizing Marriage breaks new ground in the contemporary liberal critique of traditional arrangements. The object of her critique is what she calls amatonormativity—the belief that society should value two-person, amorous love relationships. Even same-sex marriage (SSM) advocates are too restrictive for Brake in that they would confer benefits on two people alone; SSM advocates are unwitting amatonormativists. Their defenses of marriage leave out “urban tribes, best friends, quirkyalones, polyamorists” and other diverse groups united by a common bond of caring. Brake argues for an almost complete disestablishment of marriage.

Brake’s argument for minimal marriage is both destructive and constructive. Rather than propose that we abolish marriage, Brake contends that we free ourselves of any demand that marriage have an approved form. Yet Brake’s minimal marriage does not abolish the function of marriage, though she thins out that function considerably. After attacking traditional normative beliefs about marriage, she constructs a new vision of marriage as an institution that fulfills, broadly speaking, the function of caring. States, in her view, should recognize and provide benefits to caring relationships.