We need more analysis and less emotion in the marriage equality debate | Bede Harris

From religious freedom to infringing rights, if we apply principled reasoning to the same-sex marriage debate, most opposing arguments don’t stack up

The debate on marriage equality has been strong on emotion but short on principled analysis. What foundations should guide us in determining this question?

First and foremost is the principle of individual autonomy in relation to personal choices, which is a value that lies – or ought to lie – at the foundation of a free society. This principle was famously applied more than 50 years ago in the United States in the decision of Griswold v Connecticut. In that case, the supreme court struck down the law prohibiting the sale of contraceptives. The court said that people have a right to privacy, in the sense of a “zone of autonomy”, regarding intimate life choices. The court held that the more intimate the area, the less justification there was for the state to interfere. Clearly the choice of marriage partner is among the most intimate one can make, and in 2015 the court applied the same principle to invalidate laws restricting marriage to heterosexual couples.

Related: Nick Greiner denounces ‘religious freedom’ argument against marriage equality

Related: Australian marriage equality vote explainer – the answer’s in the post

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