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Queering Marriage

Challenging Family Formation in the United States

Katrina Kimport

Publication Year: 2013

Over four thousand gay and lesbian couples married in the city of San Francisco in 2004. The first large-scale occurrence of legal same-sex marriage, these unions galvanized a movement and reignited the debate about whether same-sex marriage, as some hope, challenges heterosexual privilege or, as others fear, preserves that privilege by assimilating queer couples.

In Queering Marriage, Katrina Kimport uses in-depth interviews with participants in the San Francisco weddings to argue that same-sex marriage cannot be understood as simply entrenching or contesting heterosexual privilege. Instead, she contends, these new legally sanctioned relationships can both reinforce as well as disrupt the association of marriage and heterosexuality.

During her deeply personal conversations with same-sex spouses, Kimport learned that the majority of respondents did characterize their marriages as an opportunity to contest heterosexual privilege. Yet, in a seeming contradiction, nearly as many also cited their desire for access to the normative benefits of matrimony, including social recognition and legal rights. Kimport’s research revealed that the pattern of ascribing meaning to marriage varied by parenthood status and, in turn, by gender. Lesbian parents were more likely to embrace normative meanings for their unions; those who are not parents were more likely to define their relationships as attempts to contest dominant understandings of marriage.

By posing the question—can queers “queer” marriage?—Kimport provides a nuanced, accessible, and theoretically grounded framework for understanding the powerful effect of heterosexual expectations on both sexual and social categories.

Published by: Rutgers University Press

Series: Families in Focus


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pp. 1-1

Title Page, About the Series, Other Works in the Series, Copyright

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pp. 2-5


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pp. v-7

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pp. vii-viii

Without the insight, guidance, and encouragement of my mentors at the University of California, Santa Barbara, I could not have turned a burgeoning sociological interest in the San Francisco same- sex wed-dings into the book you now hold. I thank Verta Taylor for her unwav-ering support of me and of this project. She was irreplaceable as an ...

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1. The Winter of Love

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pp. 1-19

Gavin Newsom was sworn in as the mayor of San Francisco in January 2004. It had not been an easy climb to the top. Mayor Newsom entered office following a highly contested political campaign during which he found few allies in San Francisco?s lesbian and gay community. Nonethe-less, newly elected, young, handsome, married to an equally attractive ...

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2. Marrying for the Movement

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pp. 20-42

When I asked Robert, a thirty- six- year- old physical therapist, what his marriage to Brian, his partner of eleven years, meant to him, he paused for a moment. He continued stroking their cat as it sat docilely in his lap, looked around the beautiful sunlit kitchen in the home he and Brian, a forty- year- old lawyer, shared, and offered this answer: ...

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3. Marrying for Rights

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pp. 43-64

The San Francisco marriages were not just about challenging hetero-normativity or the way marriage dispenses rights and props up nor-mativity. For many respondents, they were also about gaining access to the privileged status of being normative. In a seeming contradic-tion, even as they vehemently decried social systems that rewarded ...

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4. Marrying for Love

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pp. 65-81

...political statement. In Steven?s mind, it was about securing legal and social recognition for his relationship. For most of my respondents, these two meanings for marriage resonated strongly. They wanted to challenge the unequal social position they found themselves in because of heteronormativity and, simultaneously, many wanted to gain the ...

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5. Gender and Parenthood

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pp. 82-103

...engaged with the heteronormative meanings of marriage in different ways. Some used marriage to fiercely contest heteronormativity, while others saw marriage as a way to gain for themselves some of the spoils of normativity? and some did both. Rather than suggest contradic-tion, these competing understandings should be seen as evidence of ...

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6. The Persistent Power of Marriage

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pp. 104-129

The preceding chapters have largely focused on respondents? nar-ratives of navigating heteronormative associations, examining how same- sex couples contest or strategically mobilize aspects of hetero-normativity through marriage. Heteronormativity, however, is not solely constituted by practice; it also determines practice. The institu-...

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7. Exposing Heteronormativity

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pp. 130-149

Part of what makes heteronormativity so insidious is its invisible machinations. We don?t even notice it at work, making the unequal status of nonheterosexuals appear to be natural (not to mention its raced and classed effects). Chrys Ingraham (1994) calls this the ?het-erosexual imaginary.? Heterosexuality is so effectively integrated into ...

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8. Conclusion

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pp. 150-159

The San Francisco weddings were a sight to behold. Happy couples lined up in inclement weather, wearing trash bags from generous supporters to keep their clothes dry; passing cars honked their horns loudly; cheers erupted and bubbles floated through the air as same- sex couples exited city hall, registered marriage license in hand. Noth-...

Methodological Appendix

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pp. 161-170


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pp. 171-173


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pp. 175-185


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pp. 187-199

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About the Author

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pp. 201-213

...obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Sciences and a research Health (ANSIRH) program of the Bixby Center for Global Reproduc-tive Health at the University of California, San Francisco. Her research examines the (re)production of social inequality, with a particular ...

E-ISBN-13: 9780813562230
E-ISBN-10: 0813562236
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813562223

Page Count: 212
Publication Year: 2013

Series Title: Families in Focus
Series Editor Byline: Anita Ilta Garey, Naomi R. Gerstel, Karen V. Hansen, Rosanna Hertz, Margaret K. Nelson See more Books in this Series

OCLC Number: 863158217
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Queering Marriage

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Gay rights -- United States.
  • Gay rights -- California -- San Francisco.
  • Same-sex marriage -- United States.
  • Same-sex marriage -- California -- San Francisco.
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