You Can’t Legislate Morality: A Bad Argument Rises Again


PREMO Member
One of the most facile and foolish arguments, but nonetheless one of the most common is that you cannot or should not legislate morality. But rightly understood, all legislation has some kind of moral purpose even if it is not apparently so. When you have parking regulations, you might say, "There's nothing deeply moral at stake." But when you are looking at parking regulations, that is within the structure of the fact that there should be equity of access, and to the stewardship of that kind of resource. When you are looking at arguments for anything, you will note that politically, if you peel back the argument, somewhere there is a deep moral motivation.

It is interesting to note that many of the people who say you can't legislate morality are very quick to legislate, in moral terms, on mandating same-sex marriage, but they say, "You can't legislate morality when it comes to sex or when you come to abortion." We ought at least to be honest and say, "We're always legislating morality. The question is whose morality are we legislating?