The Liberal Case for Disestablishing Marriage

Contemporary Political Theory 6 (2):196-217 (2007)
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
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1057/palgrave.cpt.9300277
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

Our Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 38,086
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

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.

View all 13 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

After Marriage: Rethinking Marital Relationships.Elizabeth Brake (ed.) - 2016 - Oxford University Press USA.
A Populist Argument for Same-Sex Marriage.Alex Rajczi - 2008 - The Monist 91 (3-4):475-505.
Love and Marriage?Emily Crookston - 2014 - Journal of Moral Philosophy 11 (4):267-289.
Same-Sex Marriage, Polygamy, and Disestablishment.Vaughn Bryan Baltzly - 2012 - Social Theory and Practice 38 (2):333-362.
Reforming Marriage: A Comparative Approach.Laurie Shrage - 2013 - Journal of Applied Philosophy 30 (2):107-121.
Same-Sex Marriage and the Charge of Illiberality.Peter Brian Barry - 2011 - Social Theory and Practice 37 (2):333-357.


Added to PP index

Total views
32 ( #213,414 of 2,313,331 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
4 ( #205,543 of 2,313,331 )

How can I increase my downloads?

Monthly downloads

My notes

Sign in to use this feature