Law, Ethics, and Politics: The Case of Marriage

The meaning of marriage is hotly contested today. Does the state have a role in supporting particular goals for marriage (is marriage about contractual assurances or companionship or social stability or procreation or something else?). Can the state legitimately exclude some types of relationships from the status of marriage? Do "civil unions" provide an acceptable alternative to marriage for same-sex couples? On what grounds are other modes of relationships excluded from "marriage" status (e.g. polygamy)? Are the substance and goals of marriage a public issue at all, or a purely private religious/moral issue? This course explored the historical, theological, philosophical, and legal dimensions of these the Western traditions of marriages and study how individuals, moral and cultural communities, and political institutions seek to find a way to balance conflicting demands about what constitutes a legitimate marriage. This course (GOVT-482) was taught by Michael Kessler, Berkley Center/Department of Government/Georgetown University Law Center, as a Doyle Seminar (small upper-level classes that foster deepened student learning about diversity and difference through research and dialogue).

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