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When Gay People Get Married: What Happens When Societies Legalize Same-Sex Marriage

M. V. Lee Badgett
Copyright Date: 2009
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 307
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  • Book Info
    When Gay People Get Married
    Book Description:

    Winner of the 2010 Distinguished Book Award from the American Psychological Association's 44th Division (the Society for the Psychological Study of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Issues)The summer of 2008 was the summer of love and commitment for gays and lesbians in the United States. Thousands of same-sex couples stood in line for wedding licenses all over California in the first few days after same-sex marriage was legalized. On the other side of the country, Massachusetts, the very first state to give gay couples marriage rights, took the last step to full equality by allowing same-sex couples from other states to marry there as well. These happy times for same-sex couples were the hallmark of true equality for some, yet others questioned whether the very bedrock of society was crumbling. What would this new step portend?In order to find out the impact of same-sex marriage, M. V. Lee Badgett traveled to a land where it has been legal for same-sex couples to marry since 2001: the Netherlands. Badgett interviews gay couples to find out how this step has affected their lives. We learn about the often surprising changes to their relationships, the reactions of their families, and work colleagues. Moreover, Badgett is interested in the ways that the institution itself has been altered for the larger society. How has the concept of marriage changed? When Gay People Get Married gives readers a primer on the current state of the same-sex marriage debate, and a new way of framing the issue that provides valuable new insights into the political, social, and personal stakes involved.The experiences of other countries and these pioneering American states serve as a crystal ball as we grapple with this polarizing issue in the American context. The evidence shows both that marriage changes gay people more than gay people change marriage, and that it is the most liberal countries and states making the first move to recognize gay couples. In the end, Badgett compellingly shows that allowing gay couples to marry does not destroy the institution of marriage and that many gay couples do benefit, in expected as well as surprising ways, from the legal, social, and political rights that the institution offers.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-3902-0
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. 1 Introduction: A Different Perspective
    (pp. 1-14)

    The summer of 2008 was the summer of love and commitment for same-sex couples in the United States. Thousands of gay and lesbian couples stood in line for wedding licenses all over California in the first few days after that state opened marriage to same-sex couples. On the other side of the country, Massachusetts took the last step to full equality by allowing same-sex couples from other states to marry within its borders, in the very first state to give gay couples marriage rights.

    I spent that summer traveling back and forth between California and Massachusetts, amazed at the transformation...

  5. 2 Why Marry? The Value of Marriage
    (pp. 15-44)

    Picture a moonlit night on a bridge in Amsterdam, a city with canals so charming that some spots have become famous for romantic marriage proposals. On one such bridge, Liz nervously proposed to her partner, Pauline—but then immediately got cold feet and backed out.

    “I think that actually the first time I asked you, you said yes and that freaked me out,” Liz recalled to Pauline when I visited them in their cozy suburban home several years later. “She said yes, and then I was like, ‘Oh my God, no!’” The romantic moment quickly cooled in the face of...

  6. 3 Forsaking All Other Options
    (pp. 45-63)

    The complexity of couples’ stories and decisions as related in the preceding chapter provides a context for interpreting the numbers that describe gay couples’ choices to marry. Fairly soon after countries started offering legal recognition to same-sex couples, European scholars noticed that the number of couples registering as partners seemed surprisingly low. For instance, after sixteen years, 2,641 Danish couples had registered; 1,808 couples registered in Norway from 1993 to 2004; Sweden saw just over 4,000 couples register in ten years.¹ Almost 10,700 Dutch same-sex couples had married as of 2007;² if we add in the couples that have registered...

  7. 4 The Impact of Gay Marriage on Heterosexuals
    (pp. 64-85)

    Dutch winters are notorious for being gloomy, with low gray clouds pressing down from the sky. But January 1, 1998, was a happy winter day for same-sex couples in the Netherlands, who could finally register their partnerships and receive almost all of the rights and responsibilities of marriage. A little more than three years later, the Dutch parliament had opened up full-fledged marriage to same-sex couples. Did the low Dutch skies drop a bit in response to giving gay couples access to a marriage?

    Letting gay and lesbian people marry someone of the same sex obviously changes the gender combinations...

  8. 5 Something Borrowed: Trying Marriage On
    (pp. 86-114)

    After Rachel and Marianne made the decision to marry, they invited Rachel’s mother, Judith, to lunch at a restaurant to give her the news about their plans. According to Rachel, Judith’s first reaction was not delight. “Nah… nah… nah. What should I tell my friends, my girlfriends?” Judith exclaimed. “And if I say my daughter is getting married, and they all ask, ‘What does her husband do?’ Then I have to say it’s a woman. Well, what should I say?” she demanded to know in dismay. Judith had long accepted Rachel’s relationship with Marianne but was not happy about the...

  9. 6 Something New: Will Marriage Change Gay People?
    (pp. 115-128)

    Up to this point in this book, I have mainly considered the impact of same-sex marriage on the larger culture. This chapter and the next turn the causal arrows around and explore what we know and might reasonably predict about the effects of marriage on lesbian and gay people, looking at Europe and the United States for insights. This chapter focuses on the impact of the right to marry on lesbian and gay people as individuals and as members of same-sex couples.

    When my Dutch friends Stephanie and Ingrid married without inviting Stephanie’s father, he reacted with anger and a...

  10. 7 Marriage Dissent in the Gay Community
    (pp. 129-150)

    Given the heated debate about same-sex marriage, maybe it’s no surprise that public disputes have trickled down into conflict on a personal level. Dinner parties are divided by passionate opposing positions. Old friends who disagree intensely must finally agree not to talk about the same-sex marriage issue anymore. Guests attend same-sex weddings grudgingly and even duck out to read magazines during wedding parties. And that’swithinthe lesbian and gay community—those are scenes from my own personal network of friends and family. Perhaps ironically, gay people working on the front lines of the marriage debate get pushback from lesbian...

  11. 8 Strange Bedfellows: Assessing Alternatives to Marriage
    (pp. 151-174)

    In the winter of 2006, a curious political debate developed in Colorado. The group Coloradans for Marriage, backed by two conservative religious organizations, the National Association of Evangelicals and Focus on the Family, began collecting signatures to place a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriages on the November ballot. A different organization, Coloradans for Fairness and Equality, began promoting a comprehensive domestic partnership bill for same-sex couples that would also go on the ballot in November.

    But then Shawn Mitchell, a conservative state senator, took center stage. Mitchell introduced a bill to create a new “reciprocal beneficiary” status to provide...

  12. 9 The Pace of Change: Are We Moving Too Fast?
    (pp. 175-199)

    Given the longevity and adaptability of marriage as a social and legal institution, the rapid inclusion of same-sex couples that began in Europe in 1989 can seem both remarkable and natural at the same time. Earlier chapters showed how changes in the institution of marriage and the emergence of same-sex couples who wanted to marry brought the two together. As of 2007, 62% of European Union residents live in a country that grants formal legal recognition (either marriage or something legally similar) to same-sex couples. The gradual but steady spread of the principle of equality in marriage rights suggests that...

  13. 10 Conclusion: Marriage Under Renovation?
    (pp. 200-214)

    The old parts of Amsterdam are crammed with charming canal houses tilting toward soggy spots in the moist Dutch soil. Fortunately, over the centuries the houses have been propped up and maintained by loving attention and increasing engineering knowledge. During my sabbatical year, we lived on the top floor of such a house built on the Prinsengracht in the mid-1700s, one of the newer houses in the semicircles radiating outward from Central Station to the Singelgracht.

    Our Dutch friends told us stories of the decline of the old houses in the postwar period, which eventually led to threats of demolition...

  14. Appendix 1: Constructing Measures and Making Comparisons
    (pp. 215-222)
  15. Appendix 2: Methods Involved in the Dutch Couples Study
    (pp. 223-230)
  16. Notes
    (pp. 231-264)
  17. Index
    (pp. 265-286)
  18. About the Author
    (pp. 287-287)