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Is the Same‐sex Marriage Debate Really Just about Marriage?

Journal of Applied Philosophy

Published online on


In What is Marriage? One Man and One Woman: A Defense, Sherif Girgis, Ryan Anderson and Robert George defend the ‘conjugal marriage’ while claiming to make no moral judgments about homosexuality. My contention in this article is that the argument of What is Marriage is not sufficiently different from the arguments of classical new natural law theorists (NNLT), and, therefore, What is Marriage does not remain neutral on the question of whether homosexuality is moral. First, I give an overview of some classical NNLT arguments on the nature of marriage and their sexual ethic. Next, I present What is Marriage's account of conjugal marriage as a comprehensive union of two people, focusing on what makes a genuinely bodily union. I then move to the central contention of this article. By drawing on its understanding of genuinely bodily union and its account of the harm of same‐sex marriage, I argue that What is Marriage is committed to the view that same‐sex sexual unions cannot be good, since on its account of things there can be no shared sexual goods in a same‐sex sexual ‘union’.