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The ‘Defense of Marriage Act’ and Authoritarian Morality

Alec D. Walen

Rutgers School of Law, Camden

June 3, 1997

The William and Mary Bill of Rights Journal, Vol. 5, pp. 619-642, Summer 1997

The “Defense of Marriage Act” has defined marriage at the federal level for the purpose of denying recognition to same-sex marriages. It thereby perpetuates the unequal treatment of homosexuals, and does so by denying them a fundamental right – the right to marry. In this Essay, I examines the wide range of justifications offered in Congress for this law. Six categories of argument are assessed: (1) politics and economics, (2) history and tradition, (3) religion, (4) the essential nature of marriage and the family, (5) social decay, and (6) morality. I conclude that none of the justifications prove to be adequate to deny homosexuals equal access to the institution of marriage. In addition, I argue that they point to a moral rigidity that distorts one’s perception of what it means to be a homosexual. I conclude that this rigidity or authoritarianism produces a form of intolerance incompatible with our professed commitment to political equality and to protecting basic rights and liberties.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 20

Keywords: marriage, same-sex marriage, the defense of marriage act, equality, fundamental rights, intolerance

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Date posted: August 11, 2010  

Suggested Citation

Walen, Alec D., The ‘Defense of Marriage Act’ and Authoritarian Morality (June 3, 1997). The William and Mary Bill of Rights Journal, Vol. 5, pp. 619-642, Summer 1997. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1657377

Contact Information

Alec D. Walen (Contact Author)
Rutgers School of Law, Camden ( email )
217 N. 5th Street
Camden, NJ 08102-1203
United States
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