Is Marriage Incompatible with Political Liberalism?

In: Journal of Moral Philosophy
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  • 1 Teaching Fellow, University of Leeds

This paper examines three arguments that claim marriage, as a political institution, is incompatible with political liberalism. These arguments are drawn from Elizabeth Brake1 and Clare Chambers.2 My purpose here is to determine which, if any, of the arguments show marriage to be incompatible with political liberalism.

The “Neutrality Argument” claims that the political institution of marriage violates the political liberal principle of neutrality. I claim that no such violation occurs. The “Unjustified Discrimination Argument” alleges that marriage involves the state in unjustified discrimination. I suggest there are grounds for the differential treatment identified. The “Public Reason Argument” argues that marriage, as it is currently structured, violates the political liberal principle of public reason. I claim that its current structure can be justified by appeal to public reasons. I therefore conclude that none of these arguments successfully demonstrate that marriage is incompatible with political liberalism.

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