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The Moral Virtue of Marriage

Duration:
43 minutes
First broadcast:
Wednesday 06 February 2013

It doesn't matter which side of the gay marriage debate you are on it seems that both sides agree on one thing - the moral virtue of marriage. The institution of a public declaration of commitment between two individuals is said to be a cornerstone of society promoting stable relationships, commitment and self-sacrifice. The very virtues that traditionalists say make marriage unique are the same ones liberals argue should therefore be made available to all, whatever their sexuality. It's not just an argument here. The French and Americans have also been battling over who should be allowed to marry. But the debate raises some difficult questions. If marriage is such a moral virtue shouldn't the state be actively promoting it? After all, isn't that one of the main purposes of the state - to pursue policies that promote virtue among citizens? So for a start how about tax breaks for those getting married? And if marriage is such a public good, shouldn't all those liberals who want to widen the marriage franchise also be thinking about stigmatising those behaviours and changing those policies that undermine it? Should divorce be made harder? Should lone parents get less financial help from the state? And if marriage is so good, what's the point of civil partnerships? How far should the state encourage marriage?
Combative, provocative and engaging debate chaired by Michael Buerk with Michael Portillo, Melanie Phillips, Matthew Taylor and Kenan Malik. Witnesses: Professor Andrew Samuels - Psychoanalyst, Phillip Blond - Director, ResPublica, Dr Sharon James - Coalition for Marriage, Ruth Hunt, Director of Public Affairs, Stonewall.

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