The Minimal Marriage
The guys over at Bleeding-Heart Libertarians can always be relied on to post something that agrees with some of my kookier ideas.
I have always viewed conservative slippery slope arguments about marriage equality to be rather unpersuasive. So what if legalising gay marriage today means we end up legalising plural marriages tomorrow. There is no good reason why we don’t legalise plural marriages already. Moreover, the limitation of the marriage franchise to romantic relationships seems arbitrary as well. The valorisation of romantic relationships is valid only under one kind of conception of the good. There might be other conceptions of the good where non-romantic or non-sexual friendships should be valorised. And whether or not those conceptions of the good are defensible (are any actually defensible?) or shared by the majority, the state should be neutral between conceptions of the good.
Roderick Long reviews Elizabeth Brake’s (who is not a libertarian, but a left-liberal) book Minimizing Marriage: Marriage, Morality, and the Law:
Liberal neutrality is often invoked on behalf of same-sex marriage, but for Brake, restrictions on multiple-partner marriages are no less problematic. And just as heteronormativity privileges opposite-sex relationships over same-sex ones, so “amatonormativity” (Brake’s coinage) privileges amorous relationships over other caring relationships such as friendships. Thus, the state violates liberal neutrality when it allows controversially amatonormative views about good human relationships to shape marriage law
For that matter, the state violates liberal neutrality when it prevents marriages between first cousins and evens siblings.* I am not sure to what extent Brake is successful at limiting the institution to just caring relationships. It is not clear why marriages of convenience should not be legalised as well.** And of course saying that this paves the way to marriages between adults and children or animals is ridiculous. Children and animals are unable to give informed consent and cannot be party to a contract.
On a funnier note, the commenter Sean takes a humourous jab at what a plural, non-romantic, non exclusive marriage contract would look like:
Whereas…Sean, Katie, and Isabella have agreed to enter into “a situation that just kind of works”, but which their parents, jointly and severally, “totally don’t get”. The scope of this agreement shall be a triangular relationship that is “intimate” but not “like creepy intimate”, and in which “the sex thing” is not a presumed feature but merely an option to be exercised by express consent of the parties Sean and Katie. The duration of the agreement shall be “until it gets crazy” or “Isabella gets her book published and moves to New York”. Specific consideration to be given as follows:
a.) Isabella must convincingly feign interest in the cancelled television series ‘Firefly’, including repeat viewings which may include commentary tracks.
b.) Sean must be willing to serve as a “fauxmosexual wingman” in cases where this is deemed necessary to help Isabella safely secure sexual partners in a nightclub or bar setting.
c.) Katie must pretend to believe that any career change suggested by Isabella is a serious and realistic plan for life improvement. In no case may Katie or Sean call attention to the long history and dismal result of such changes.
*This in no way represents the views of the National University of Singapore or the Philosophy Department.
**That doing so allows us to completely circumvent immigration restrictions is a feature, not a bug