What’s So Great About . . .

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1 Response

  1. Matt says:

    Katherine, when you say,

    “because if marriage is an inherently gendered institution, as Blankenhorn, the law, much history and a good deal of contemporary reality suggest, then it not clear that same sex couples would have an equality right to it.”

    I want to know a lot more about what you mean by “inherently”. I would normally understand the term to mean something like, “necessarily”. But, you follow up by saying that it’s “deeply gendered”, but that doesn’t seem at all to me to be the same thing as “inherently gendered”, and it’s not clear how the sociological and historical facts you cite could establish a necessity claim.

    In contrast, when I read people like John Finnis or Robert George talk about marriage, they are not, I think, talking about history or sociology, which is what most of your examples following my quoted sentence seem to be about. They are talking, as I understand it, about a moral category and one they take to be necessary for the human good. So, they think it’s a sort of logical contradiction, on the one hand, to talk about same-sex marriage, and that same-sex marriage can’t provide the necessary good that “traditional” marriage is supposed to- “two-in-one-flesh union” or whatever the term is. Importantly, claims about the good people find in same-sex unions are of little, if any, interest to the George/Finnis account, as I understand it.

    The George/Finnis view makes sense, in its own terms, but only because it’s not a sociological or historical account of marriage or its good. With a sociological or historical account, it seems that the idea of marriage as “inherently gendered” is just proven false by same-sex marriage, in the same way that a claim that marriage is “inherently dyadic” is proven false by the existence of polygamy.

    The George/Finnis view seems to me to have no place in constitutional discourse, for reasons that Deborah Hellman sums up nicely in her post. The sociological and historical facts you mention might have some relevance for the legal issue, but we’d need evidence that this is both what the law means to protect and that it should protect this, and not other, aspects. Even then, though, these facts could surely not show that marriage is “inherently” gendered, I’d think, so I’d be glad for some further clarification on your position here.