Public or Private Good? The Contested Meaning of Marriage

Social Philosophy Today 26:23-38 (2010)
Abstract
Addressing controversy over same-sex marriage, I defend the privatization response: disestablish civil marriage, leaving the question of same-sex marriage to private organizations; detach civil rights from erotic affiliation; and grant legal equality through the mechanism of civil unions. However, the privatization response does not fully address one key conservative argument to the effect that (heterosexual) marriage constitutes a public good of such importance that civil society has a sustaining interest in it. I acknowledge the legitimate, even profound, values or goods that marriage promotes, but contend that they are compatible withhomosexuality. Further, I argue that marriage is neither necessary nor sufficient for sustaining the goods that inhere in modern marriage. Thus, it is not clear that marriage is the best way for the state to promote these goods. Finally, I suggest that the core goods of marital commitment are moral and are not the proper subject of state regulation
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