Document Type

Working Paper

Repository Date



Gun, Lee, George, Wax, Geach, Gay Rights, Same-Sex Marriage

Subject Categories

Civil Rights and Discrimination | Law


Many Americans think that homosexual sex is morally wrong and oppose same-sex marriage. Philosophers trying to defend these views have relied on two strategies. One is to claim that such sex is wrong irrespective of consequences: there is something intrinsic to sex that makes it only licit when it takes place within a heterosexual marriage (in which there is no contraception or possibility of divorce). Patrick Lee and Robert P. George have developed and clarified this claim. The second strategy focuses on consequences: the baleful effects on heterosexual families of societal tolerance for homosexuality. Amy Wax (who is not a clear opponent of same-sex marriage, but who is worried by it) has tried to array evidence to support the second. Mary Geach has developed a novel hybrid, relying on the second argument to support the first one. Both strategies fail. The first cannot show that the intrinsic goodness of sex is at once (a) derived from its reproductive character and (b) present in the coitus of married couples who know themselves to be infertile, but not present in any sex act other than heterosexual marital coitus. As for evidence of bad consequences of tolerance of homosexuality, the evidence is all the other way.