The Liberal Case Against Same-Sex Marriage Prohibitions

Peter Brian Barry
Saginaw Valley State University
Experience clearly suggests that most legal philosophers and ethicists are not surprised to be told that liberal states cannot permissibly prohibit same-sex marriage (henceforth: SSM). It is somewhat less clear just what the appropriate liberal strategy is and should be in defense of this thesis. Rather than try to defend SSM directly, I shall proceed indirectly by arguing that SSM prohibitions are indefensible on liberal grounds. Initially, I shall consider what I take to be the most powerful liberal argument against SSM prohibitions and account for my reservations about it. Then, I shall propose an alternative argument with roots in constitutional law that since SSM prohibitions do not survive liberal scrutiny, they must be rejected.
Keywords same-sex marriage  gay marriage  liberalism  rational basis review  liberty
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