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License to Wed

License to Wed: What Legal Marriage Means to Same-Sex Couples

Kimberly D. Richman
Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 271
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  • Book Info
    License to Wed
    Book Description:

    A critical reader of the history of marriage understands that it is an institution that has always been in flux. It is also a decidedly complicated one, existing simultaneously in the realms of religion, law, and emotion. And yet recent years have seen dramatic and heavily waged battles over the proposition of including same sex couples in marriage. Just what is at stake in these battles?This book examines the meanings of marriage for couples in the two first states to extend that right to same sex couples: California and Massachusetts. The two states provide a compelling contrast: while in California the rights that go with marriage - inheritance, custody, and so forth - were already granted to couples under the state's domestic partnership law, those in Massachusetts did not have this same set of rights. At the same time, Massachusetts has offered civil marriage consistently since 2004; Californians, on the other hand, have experienced a much more turbulent legal path. And yet, same-sex couples in both states seek to marry for a variety of interacting, overlapping, and evolving reasons that do not vary significantly by location.The evidence shows us that for many of these individuals, access to civil marriage in particular - not domestic partnership alone, no matter how broad - andnota commitment ceremony alone, no matter how emotional - is a home of such personal, civic, political, and instrumental resonance that it is ultimately difficult to disentangle the many meanings of marriage. This book attempts to do so, and in the process reveals just what is at stake for these couples, how access to a legal institution fundamentally alters their consciousness, and what the impact of legal inclusion is for those traditionally excluded.Kimberly Richmanis Associate Professor of Sociology and Legal Studies at the University of San Francisco.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-2419-4
    Subjects: Law, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xii)
    (pp. xiii-xxii)
  5. 1 Introduction: Situating the Meanings of Marriage
    (pp. 1-19)

    In a small, little-known museum amid the storefronts on a side street of one of the United States’ most famous “gay-borhoods,” stands an odd display: among the political signs, photos, handbills, and other historical paraphernalia are two women’s pantsuits, one a vibrant turquoise blue and the other a deep shade of lilac. The outfits are unremarkable in most ways and would be equally at home in the aisles of JC Penney. But here in the Castro district of San Francisco, in the GLBT (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender) History Museum, these pantsuits are instantly recognizable: they are relics of history,...

  6. 2 The Road to Same-Sex Marriage: The Beginning
    (pp. 20-50)

    The first decade of the twentieth century witnessed profound changes in the social and legal position of gay and lesbian couples. The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision inLawrence v. Texasin June 2003 struck down sodomy laws in those thirteen states where they remained.¹ Five months later the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court rendered its ruling inGoodridge v. Department of Public Health, making Massachusetts the first state in the U.S. to fully legalize same-sex marriage.² Before this ruling went into effect in May 2004, the City and County of San Francisco, in an unprecedented move, began issuing marriage licenses to...

  7. 3 The Rite as Right: Marriage as Material Right, Marriage as Strategy
    (pp. 51-87)

    Despite its varied past (and present), the right to marriage is one that has been treated in modern western history as so vital that is deemed “fundamental” in United States law. The Supreme Court has upheld the right to marriage for interracial couples, deadbeat dads, and those convicted of a felony. Like becoming a parent—also a venerated and protected status, and one carrying many rights and responsibilities—the state does not traditionally place many barriers or restrictions on marriage, aside from age and blood relation; this is one reason why the Defense of Marriage Act and other explicit limitations...

  8. 4 Marriage as Protest: The Political Dimensions of Marital Motivation
    (pp. 88-126)

    Given Schwarzenegger’s prediction of the scene at San Francisco City Hall in 2004 when the first same-sex marriages occurred there, it would hardly be a stretch for the casual news reader to assume that these marriages were little more than an elaborate gay rights protest. Although those who were present saw far more celebration and singing than riots and protest, there were plenty of people, signs, and media. The scene at the Cambridge city clerk’s office in Massachusetts a few months later, when that office began issuing the first fully legal same-sex marriage licenses in the United States, looked very...

  9. 5 Marriage as Validation: Subjects before (and after) the Law
    (pp. 127-164)

    The modern institution of marriage lays claim to many meanings: commitment, love, responsibility, family. But is it also power? Certainly the use of the marriage ritual to enact resistance or make a statement for gay rights leads us to believe so—at least symbolically. From the privileged position of heterosexuality, though, “power” is not something that comes to mind with marriage: linking oneself to another, legally and financially (not to mention emotionally) would seem, if anything, like adilutionof personal power, perhaps even a diminution of autonomy. But committed same-sex couples don’t come from this same position of privilege....

  10. 6 Making It Personal: Marriage, Emotion, and Love inside and outside the Law
    (pp. 165-211)

    At first glance it might seem absurd that in a book about marriage, only one chapter is dedicated to discussion of love and romance. After all, as a number of couples poignantly point out, what other reason is there to marry? The old saying that “love and marriage go together like a horse and carriage,” however trite, certainly holds true for a great number of couples, whether gay or straight. At the same time, this is not—and cannot be—the end of the story. The simplicity of the formulation belies the inherent complexity of the particular historical moment in...

  11. 7 Conclusion: The Multiple Meanings of Marriage
    (pp. 212-222)

    When Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin donned their brightly colored wedding pantsuits and stated the vows that would mark a milestone in American history, few would have predicted that they would ever see that moment, not least the two women themselves. As LGBT rights pioneers they had already made history by defying convention and living outside of the mainstream as feminist lesbian activists. Who would have thought that one of their most well-remembered and documented moments, cementing their status as icons for a younger generation, would be one in which they entered what has long been thought of as the...

  12. APPENDIX 1: Survey Instrument
    (pp. 223-228)
  13. APPENDIX 2: Overview of Survey Findings
    (pp. 229-230)
  14. NOTES
    (pp. 231-240)
  15. INDEX
    (pp. 241-249)
    (pp. 250-250)