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Robert George


What is Marriage?  by Sherif Girgis, Robert P. George, Ryan T. Anderson.  Girgis is a Ph.D. candidate in Philosophy at Princeton University.  George is the McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton University.  Anderson is a Ph.D. candidate in Political Science at the University of Notre Dame.  This article is adapted with permission from the Journal of Law and Public Policy, Vol 34, No. 1, Winter 2010, pp 247-287.     May/Jun 2012 Theology Matters,   Footnotes to Article

The authors posit two competing views of marriage: the conjugal view and the revisionist view.  In the conjugal view, "marriage is the union of a man and a woman who make a permanent and exclusive commitment to each other of the type that is naturally (inherently) fulfilled by bearing and rearing children together.  The spouses seal (consummate) and renew their union by conjugal acts--acts that constitute the behavioral part of the process of reproduction, thus uniting them as a reproductive unit. Marriage is valuable in itself, but its inherent orientation to the bearing and rearing of children contributes to its distinctive structure, including norms of monogamy and fidelity. This link to the welfare of children also helps explain why marriage is important to the common good and why the state should recognize and regulate it."

In the revisionist view, "Marriage is the union of two people (whether of the same sex or of opposite sexes) who commit to romantically loving and caring for each other and to sharing the burdens and benefits of domestic life.  It is essentially a union of hearts and minds, enhanced by whatever forms of sexual intimacy both partners find agreeable.  The state should recognize and regulate marriage because it has an interest in stable romantic partnerships and in the concrete needs of spouses and any children they may choose to rear."

The authors write their critique of the two positions from a secular perspective.  They don't appeal to biblical authority.   Instead they observe, "marriage is the type of social practice whose basic contours can be discerned by our common human reason, whatever our religious background."

With a lawyer's exacting arguments and clear thinking the authors address topics of:

  • Equality, Justice, and the Heart of the Debate;
  • Real Marriage Is--and Is Only--the Union of Husband and Wife;
  • How Would Gay Civil Marriage Affect You Or Your Marriage;
  • If Not Same-sex Couples, Why Infertile Ones?
  • Challenges for Revisionists
  • Why Not Spread Traditional Norms to the Gay Community?
  • What About A Partner's Concrete Needs?
  • Doesn't the Conjugal Conception of Marriage Sacrifice Some People's Fulfillment for Others?
  • Isn't It Only Natural?
  • Doesn't Traditional Marriage Law Impose Controversial Moral and Religious Views on Everyone?

May/Jun 2012 Theology Matters,   Footnotes to Article