The Liberal Case for Disestablishing Marriage

Contemporary Political Theory 6 (2):196-217 (2007)
Abstract
What role should the state have in recognizing and regulating marriage? Until recently, liberal political theorists paid little attention to this question. Yet the challenges that the public–private boundary-crossing institution of marriage poses to liberalism are substantial. Tensions in contemporary debates suggest that these challenges remain unaddressed and thus, invite attempts to formulate a coherent and compelling model of the relationship between marriage and the liberal state. This article responds to this invitation. Marriage has long been a concern of at least some liberal thinkers. Typically they focused on the dual character of marriage, or its role in producing gender inequality. While these critical insights are essential to any adequate account of marriage and the state, they are only part of the picture. To grasp the sources of confusion and silences in contemporary debates, and formulate a robust liberal model of marriage and the state, we must examine the functions — intended and effective — of public recognition of marriage. This examination highlights the relevance to the marriage-state relationship of familiar liberal approaches to negotiating the religion-state relationship. Drawing on these approaches and liberal feminist thought, I sketch a model of marriage and the state that aims to expand the area of protected freedom without sacrificing equality, fairness or marriage. Under the model I propose, marriage would be disestablished. The state would neither confer marital status, nor use 'marriage' as a category for dispersing benefits. Legitimate public welfare goals currently treated through marriage would be addressed through an intimate caregiving union status
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DOI 10.1057/palgrave.cpt.9300277
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References found in this work BETA

Political Liberalism.J. Rawls - 1995 - Tijdschrift Voor Filosofie 57 (3):596-598.
Justice, Gender, and the Family.Susan Moller Okin - 1991 - Philosophy and Public Affairs 20 (1):77-97.
Sex and Social Justice.Martha C. Nussbaum - 2000 - Hypatia 17 (2):171-173.

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