Erosion Of Marital Norms


P1. A definition of marriage which cannot account for the marital norms (permanence, sexual exclusivity and monogamy) will lead to a breakdown of the marital norms

P2. Same-sex marriage cannot account for the marital norms

C. Therefore same-sex marriage will lead to a breakdown of the marital norms


What is Marriage? Man and Woman: A Defense – Sherif Girgis, Ryan T. Anderson, and Robert P. George

This argument is also used against:

Clearly a breakdown of the marital norms is devastating for children and the social problem that every society must solve. From Sherif Girgis, Robert P. George, & Ryan T. Anderson:

In redefining marriage, the law would teach that marriage is
fundamentally about adults’ emotional unions, not bodily union or children, with which marital norms are tightly intertwined. Since emotions can be inconstant, viewing marriage essentially as an emotional union would tend to increase marital instability—and it would blur the distinct value of friendship, which is a union of hearts and minds. Moreover, and more importantly, because there is no reason that primarily emotional unions any more than ordinary friendships in general should be permanent, exclusive, or limited to two, these norms of marriage would make less and less sense. Less able to understand the rationale for these marital norms, people would feel less bound to live by them. And less able to understand the value of marriage itself as a certain kind of union, even apart from the value of its emotional satisfactions, people would increasingly fail to see the intrinsic reasons they have for marrying or staying with a spouse absent consistently strong feeling.

…the state cannot effectively encourage adherence to norms in relationships where those norms have no deep rational basis. Laws that restrict people’s freedom for no rational purpose are not likely to last, much less to have significant success in changing people’s behavior by adherence. On the other hand, traditional marriage laws merely encourage adherence to norms in relationships where those norms already have an independent rational basis.

Girgis, Sherif and George, Robert and Anderson, Ryan T., What is Marriage? (November 23, 2012). Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy, Vol. 34, No. 1, pp. 245-287, Winter 2010, Available at SSRN: