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The Case against Different-Sex Marriage in Kant

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  12 August 2020

Martin Sticker*
University of Bristol


Recently, a number of Kantians have argued that despite Kant’s own disparaging comments about same-sex intercourse and marriage, his ethical and legal philosophy lacks the resources to show that they are impermissible. I go further by arguing that his framework is in fact more open to same-sex than to different-sex marriage. Central is Kant’s claim that marriage requires equality between spouses. Kant himself thought that men and women are not equal, and some of his more insightful remarks on the issue reveal that he was also aware that, as a matter of fact, women were disenfranchised by society, and suffer legal and other forms of discrimination. Kant, according to his own account, cannot approve of heterosexual marriage. Same-sex couples, by contrast, can satisfy the crucial equality condition. I conclude with a suggestion for refocus with respect to the issues at hand, calling for attention to more complex and insidious forms of inequality than deprivation of rights and full civil participation.

© The Author(s), 2020. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of Kantian Review

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