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Gay Marriage November 1, 2009

Posted by Dwight Furrow in Dwight Furrow's Posts, Philosophy of Gender, politics.
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On Tuesday, Maine voters will decide whether to overturn a law permitting gay marriage.

So now is a good time to link to Martha Nussbaum’s recent article in Dissent Magazine that takes seriously but carefully annihilates conservative arguments against gay marriage. It is the best short article I have read on the subject written by one of the most talented philosophers of our time.

Nussbaum provides an account of the history and structure of the institution of marriage and shows why arguments that claim same-sex marriage will harm the institution are without merit. She concludes that

Nothing short of a primitive idea of stigma and taint can explain the widespread feeling that same-sex marriage defiles or contaminates straight marriage, while the marriages of “immoral” and “sinful” heterosexuals do not do so. […]

Like same-sex marriages, cross-racial unions were opposed with a variety of arguments, both political and theological. In hindsight, however, we can see that disgust was at work. […]

The Supreme Court concluded that such ideas of racial stigma were the only ideas that really supported those laws, whatever else was said: “There is patently no legitimate overriding purpose independent of invidious racial discrimination which justifies this classification.”
We should draw the same conclusion about the prohibition of same-sex marriage: irrational ideas of stigma and contamination, the sort of “animus” the Court recognized in Romer v. Evans, is a powerful force in its support.

Let’s hope Maine voters do not give in to bigotry on Tuesday.

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