Same-sex Marriage: Principle Versus Practice

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This article uses in-depth interview data to examine the meanings of marriage for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) people in the US context. The politics of recognition and rights consciousness provide the theoretical frames for the study. The interview data indicate broad support for legal recognition of same-sex marriage among LGBTQ individuals, but more mixed views of marriage as a social institution and uneven personal aspirations to marry. Respondents fall into three broad categories: marriage-positive, marriage-ambivalent, and marriage-negative. The fact that LGBTQ respondents favour marriage more in principle (as a right) than in practice (as an actual social institution) suggests that marriage holds multiple meanings for them. I discuss these meanings in relation to the politics of recognition and the political effects of rights. I conclude that the tension between marriage in principle versus practice signals both a desire for recognition and a critical perspective on law.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)51-74
Number of pages24
JournalInternational Journal of Law, Policy and the Family
Issue number1
StatePublished - Apr 1 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The author gratefully acknowledges the support for this research provided by the following sources at the University of Minnesota: Graduate Research Partnership Program (College of Liberal Arts), Life Course Center, Grant-in-Aid of Research, Artistry and Scholarship (Office of the Dean of the Graduate School), and the Schochet GLBT Research Award (Office for Multicultural and Academic Affairs). The author also gratefully acknowledges external support from the Small Research Grants Program of the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law. This article benefitted audience feedback at a paper session at the 2014 Annual Meeting of the Law and Society Association in Minneapolis, MN.

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2018.


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