Introduction to Political Theory

(Marvins-Underground-K-12) #1

  1. State and society are distinct; marriage is a pre-political social institution that
    has a reality independently of the state. The state cannot redefine marriage.

  2. Marriage is a union between one man and one woman intended to provide the
    context in which children are produced and brought up. Note that this argument
    is distinct from the first: it is possible to argue that marriage has a pre-political
    reality without holding to the definition of marriage as an exclusive heterosexual
    union. You might, for example, endorse some form of polygamy (polygyny
    and/or polyandry).

  3. Supporters of gay marriage rely on abstract – ‘rationalist’ – arguments derived
    from universal ideas of equality. This objection does not preclude conservative
    support for same-sex marriage, but it objects to the type of arguments employed
    by many of its supporters. It is not enough to talk of ‘marriage equality’; you
    have to explain what good is advanced by extending marriage to same-sex

  4. Redefining marriage has unintended consequences. Changing the laws on
    marriage requires amendments to many other pieces of legislation. After the
    passing in the UK of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2014 The Telegraph
    reported that there had to be ‘amendments to 36 Acts dating back to 1859;
    special exclusions from the effects of the Same-Sex Marriage Act for a further
    67 other pieces of legislation dating back 729 years and changes to dozens of
    pension regulations which have legal force’ (The Telegraph, 21 February 2014).

  5. Along with the collateral effects on other laws (point 4) there are threats to the
    civil liberties of those who object to same-sex marriage, such as marriage
    registrars and people involved in the wedding industry. This is not a specifically
    conservative argument. Libertarians would also be concerned about civil
    liberties. But it has a conservative cast if we recall Oakeshott’s distinction
    between an enterprise society and an association society. The latter leaves space
    for moral disagreement and seeks compromise; one compromise would be to
    have civil unions alongside marriage.

  6. Conservatives believe that moral authority has several sources, secular and
    religious. Even those with secular views – Oakeshott, for example, was not
    religious – tend to respect religious institutions. The objections of mainstream
    churches to same-sex marriage therefore carry some weight, even if those
    objections are not decisive in determining legislation.

  7. A more secular argument, influenced by Darwinian theory, is that men by nature
    seek multiple sexual partners and therefore marriage binds men to families. It
    also gives them an incentive for staying married by reducing uncertainty over
    whether their children are their own. Interestingly, this argument runs counter
    to the religiously inspired claim that men and women have natural ‘complemen-
    tarity’ – that by nature they form a bodily union. The Darwinian argument
    makes the opposite claim: marriage has to exist because of the inevitable
    conflicts between men and women. It is a conservative argument insofar as
    conservatives believe there are limits to human malleability, and evidence from
    biological evolution supports this claim.

  8. Law should change slowly and not be elite-driven. The fact that a majority of
    people support same-sex marriage does not detract from the charge that change
    has been too rapid for its legal effects to be felt.

208 Part 2 Classical ideologies

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