Law and Philosophy

, Volume 31, Issue 2, pp 185-212

First online:

Political Liberalism, Marriage and the Family

  • Christie HartleyAffiliated withDepartment of Philosophy, Georgia State University
  • , Lori WatsonAffiliated withDepartment of Philosophy, University of San Diego Email author 

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Can and should political liberals recognize and otherwise support legal marriage as a matter of basic justice? In this article, we offer a general account of how political liberals should evaluate the issue of whether the legal recognition of marriage is a matter of basic justice. And, we develop and examine some public reason arguments that, given the fundamental interests of citizens, could justify various forms of legal marriage in some contexts. In particular, in certain conditions, the recognition of some form of legal marriage may be the best way to protect the fundamental interests of women as citizens in freely chosen associations. Or, it may be that, in certain conditions, to secure the social conditions necessary for gays, lesbians and bisexuals to be free and equal citizens, some form of legal marriage can or should be recognized.