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Volume 23 • Number 3

July 2009



Same-Sex Mariage in a Liberal Democracy: Between Rejection and Recognition

by David Gilboa

In the current debate about same-sex marriage, the great majority of writers belong to one of two camps: either completely in favor of same-sex marriage or completely against it. No effort is typically made to treat different dimensions of the problem differently. My approach, however, is to distinguish between two dimensions of the problem—between the right to marry a person of the same sex on the one hand, and the right to obtain public recognition of such marriage, on the other hand. It turns out, then, that the best solution to the problem of samesex marriage may actually fall between the opposing camps, between unqualified rejection and unqualified recognition of same-sex marriage. Same-sex marriage ceremonies ought to be lawful, hence tolerated, but same-sex marriage need not be recognized; the benefits and protections of the marriage license may be denied to same-sex couples without discriminating against them. If sound, the argument of this paper as a whole demonstrates that, in the matter of same-sex marriage, a liberal democratic society, by virtue of the scope and flexibility of its institutions, is capable of reconciling majority rule and tradition with the demands of justice.

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ISSN: 2152-0542