Political Liberalism, State
Neutrality, and Same-Sex Marriage
by Eric Reitan
Several opponents of state-conferred same-sex marriage (hereafter SSM) have
argued that key tenets of political liberalism, a perspective typically thought
to support SSM, actually offer a reason to prohibit it. An early argument for this
view, advanced by Jeff Jordan, invokes the ideal of state neutrality with respect
to public moral dilemmas, holding that such neutrality is best preserved when
the state permits private consensual homosexual behavior but withholds SSM.
More recently, Francis Beckwith has argued that legalizing SSM would, at least
granted current legal and judicial realities, result in state-sponsored coercion and
marginalization of SSM opponents, including those opponents whose position is
grounded in a reasonable comprehensive conception of the good. Since political
liberalism can justify such coercion and marginalization only by public standards
of rationality that according to Beckwith, donít exist in the present case, he concludes
that political liberalism offers reason to oppose SSM.