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Liberalism, Civil Marriage, and Amorous Caregiving Dyads

Journal of Applied Philosophy

Published online on


Recently, the US has joined many European jurisdictions in extending civil marriage to same sex as well as different sex dyads. Many liberals regard this as a development worth entrenching. But a prominent recent liberal challenge to civil marriage claims otherwise. According to this challenge, by defining and conferring civil marriage, the state privileges some relationships over others that serve equally well the important liberal goal of fostering effective liberal citizenship, in violation of a prominent interpretation of the doctrine of state neutrality. Theorists who press this challenge, such as Elizabeth Brake and Tamara Metz, argue that it can be met effectively only by dismantling civil marriage and replacing it with more inclusive state‐maintained arrangements. So far, prominent responses to this neutralist challenge to civil marriage have focused on the special value of either the relationships to which civil marriage currently extends, or the special value of civil marriage itself. In this article, I develop an alternative reply to this neutralist challenge to civil marriage, one focusing instead on the special vulnerabilities of some of the liberally valuable relationships to which civil marriage currently extends, amorous caregiving dyads.