Same-Sex Marriage and the Charge of Illiberality

Social Theory and Practice 37 (2):333-357 (2011)
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However liberalism is best understood, liberals typically seek to defend a wide range of liberty. Since same-sex marriage [henceforth: SSM] prohibitions limit the liberty of citizens, there is at least some reason to suppose that they are inconsistent with liberal commitments. But some have argued that it is the recognition of SSM—not its prohibition—that conflicts with liberalism’s commitments. I refer to the thesis that recognition of SSM is illiberal as “The Charge.” As a sympathetic liberal, I take The Charge seriously enough to consider and ultimately reject it. Ultimately, I contend that The Charge is simply misguided and that arguments for it either fail to find support in some liberal principle or else find support from some illiberal principle.


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Peter Brian Barry
Saginaw Valley State University

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