Family trouble: Divorce, gay marriage, and feminism

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Richard Rodriguez offers interesting commentary on Sonia Sotomayor, the president's nominee for Judge Souter's place on the Supreme Court. Writing (always beautifully, whether you agree or not) on Salon.com, Rodriguez points out that what's interesting about Sotomayor is the fact that she is long divorced and now unmarried, a trend of women without male partners that can be seen also in the continuing rise in the U.S. divorce rate and recent news that 40 percent of children in the U.S. are now born out of wedlock, with many women deliberately choosing single parenthood. Rodriguez:

"As Barack Obama stood alongside Sonia Sotomayor in the East Room of the White House, it occurred to me that we are living in the America of Ann Dunham. Dunham, the president's mother, was twice married, twice divorced. She was a scholar who traveled far from the university library, to several continents.

"In an interview with Time magazine, Barack Obama called his mother 'reckless.' But surely Ann Dunham gave both her remarkable daughter and son a measure of confidence and daring. Because of his mother, Barack Obama is comfortable with the fact that there are women in this world who have much to give the world, whether or not they find a male to accompany them throughout their journey."

Rodriguez argues that the real issue behind the fight over gay marriage is the fact that families are changing, and patriarchy is losing out, a trend fueled by women like Sotomayor and the president's mother. The real issue, Rodriguez argues, is the relationship between men and women after the sexual revolution; gay marriage is only the proxy battleground.

Rodriguez, a self-described gay practicing Catholic, spins out his argument more fully in an interview last November titled, "Why churches fear gay marriage," Rodriguez draws out the ironies of two male-dominated religious institutions with sexual scandals of their own--California's Roman Catholic bishops and the Mormon church--opposing gay marriage as a "threat" to traditional families. Rodriguez again:

"The possibility that a whole new generation of American males is being raised by women without men is very challenging for the churches. I think they want to reassert some sort of male authority over the order of things. I think the pro-Proposition 8 movement was really galvanized by an insecurity that churches are feeling now with the rise of women." Rodriguez argues that the resolution of this conflict hinges on whether Christianity can be "feminized."

Rodriguez is likely to get people's blood boiling, but no one can deny his thoughtfulness on these issues.