What Is Marriage? A Conversation with Linda McClain

As legalization of same-sex marriage spreads to one-third of states including the recent vote in New Mexico and ruling in Utah and in Oklahoma, our understanding of marriage in general expands and thus our understanding of parenthood and family potentially expand as well.

As part of the Institute for American Values' "New Marriage Conversation," both David Blankenhorn and I interviewed Linda McClain, Boston University law professor, known for her work in family law and feminist legal theory. In these conversations, we explore how the place of marriage, class, and parenthood are intricately intertwined in society. While the collective conversation in recent years has been dominated by the marriage equality debate (and rightly so), the time to consider the nuances of how marriage rights and responsibilities relate to a growing class divide and the journey to and in parenthood is now. You can watch the full interview below or click on the podcast link for an edited, 50-minute version.

In the podcast, we hear Professor McClain, a supporter of same-sex marriage, discuss her perceptions of the changing marital norm and its impact on the societal and legal understanding of what it means to be a parent. She brings helpful insight into the on-going debates on family formation, paying close attention to the growing economic divide between those who marry and those who do not. As marriage continues to fracture along economic lines, she stresses the ways that society should support vocational and educational opportunities as a pathway to forming stable families.

In this edited conversation, we hear the best of Professor McClain - first as a public intellectual engaged in civil discourse with David Blankenhorn and then as a teacher helping me better understand the chorus of voices and viewpoints in the contemporary discussions about parenthood, all ably presented in her recently released book What is Parenthood? (co-edited with Daniel Cere).

McClain offers an in-depth, solid perspective on how we might legally and socially support all families as they create new legacies, tell their story, and access public and private resources to support everyday life. A great message for a New Year.