Everything I Know About Marriage I Learned from Law Professors
14 Pages Posted: 20 Jan 2005
Lawyers and legal academics are present in disproportionate numbers in the debates about marriage reform (e.g., regarding DOMA, same-sex marriage, and covenant marriage). This paper (presented as part of a Conference on the Meaning of Marriage at the University of San Diego Institute of Law and Philosophy) raises questions regarding the extent to which lawyers and legal academics have any special expertise to offer the marriage debates.
There are of course constitutional aspects to the debates, though these can be overstated - important aspects of the debates concern policy issues for which the Constitution arguably neither requires nor forbids particular options. To the extent the debate turns on controversial sociological questions (e.g., the effect of different parenting structures on children) or historical claims (e.g., the extent to which marriage has changed over time), lawyers and legal academics likely do not have much to add, and should probably defer to experts from other fields. At the same time, it is important to emphasize that the regulation of marriage often involves reference to the complex rules of federalism and conflict of laws, so there is certainly still a place and a need for legal contributions to these controversies.
Keywords: Marriage, Same-Sex Marriage, Conflict of Laws
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