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Is There a Right to Polygamy? Marriage, Equality and Subsidizing Families in Liberal Public Justification

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Chapter Summary

The author considers that the types of arguments political liberals have to insist on, in order for a general prohibition against polygamy, while also considering what general attitude towards "marriage" and legal recognition of the right to marry are most consistent with political liberalism. He argues that a liberal state should get out of the "marriage business" by leveling down to a universal status of "civil union" neutral as to the gender and affective purpose of domestic partnerships. He refutes what is regard as the four most plausible rational objections to offering this civil union status to multimember domestic partnerships. The most common objection to polygamy is on grounds of gender equality, more specifically, female equality. Polygamy involves no inherent statement about the essential inferiority of women. Arguments from the welfare of children and the abuse of family subsidies are also considered and found insufficient for excluding polygamy.

Keywords: civil union; gender equality; marriage business; political liberalism; polygamy



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