The Italian parliament is currently discussing whether to allow same-sex couples the possibility of step-child adoption. This is fueling a heated debate across the whole country, but, as far as I can tell, neither side has come up with a decently put argument to back up its claims: most discussions are a mixture of screaming and logical fallacies, and hardly go beyond trivial slogans such as 'love makes a family' and 'children are not toys', which, while being rhetorically powerful for some strata of the population, simply do not make a cogent case.

So my question is the following: has any moral and legal philosopher treated the topic of same-sex couple raising children? Is there some bibliography about it?

  • 1
    This seems less like a question about ethics and more like one about politics, psychologoy and sociology.
    – M. le Fou
    Feb 7, 2016 at 4:17
  • 3
    Abortion, euthanasia, drug-legalization, capital punishment, war and the like are also political, psychological and sociological issues, and yet they are discussed by moral philosophers. I don't see why same-sex adoption is different.
    – Adrian
    Feb 7, 2016 at 11:47

1 Answer 1


I think the majority of the philosophical arguments around gay marriage and gay adoption have been within the realm of political philosophy. Here, there are two major ideas at work in contemporary society:

  1. Rights and freedoms-based views
  2. Natural law based views

From what I gather, there's not too much argument in the rights/freedoms side. If you give people the right to have sex with whom they will and to contract with whom they will, that the state has little interest or position in managing who adopts whom. Or to put it another way, you're going to have to go the full distance and say gay sex is immoral to make a rights argument against legal recognition of gay relationships. Or for gay adoption, you're going to have to show specific harm as to why it among other forms is unacceptable.

Thus, the majority of the argument has been about whether a natural law (here merely meaning an account of society and the family informed by something in nature) would allow for gay marriage and gay adoption.

The primary text I'm aware of making the against allowing gay marriage and gay adoption is Robert George at Princeton Univeristy, Ryan Anderson, and Sherif Gergis, What is Marriage?. I don't know the exact details of the argument but it builds a case that there's a specific social benefit to privileging and enshrining the natural family of man, woman, and children in law and giving it benefits, and that other relationships do not merit this privileging. (Actually, Hegel makes a similar argument in Philosophy of Right "The Family" and such arguments (well or poorly made are pretty common in the history of Western philosophy)).

The argument in terms of natural law in favoring of allowing gay marriage and gay adoption hinges on arguing that the purposes of sex and family have less to do with procreative ability and more to do with creating strong bonds through sex. A primary advocate of this position is John Corvino.

  • "I don't the exact details of the argument." You accidentally a word.
    – TRiG
    Apr 22, 2016 at 16:15

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