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License to Wed

What Legal Marriage Means to Same-Sex Couples

Kimberly D. Richman

Publication Year: 2013

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—and not a 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 Richman is Associate Professor of Sociology and Legal Studies at the University of San Francisco.

Published by: NYU Press


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pp. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. 2-7


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xii

At the core of any work of social science are the people whose story it tells. This one was inspired by a few groups of particularly brave indi-viduals: the advocates and attorneys at GLAD, NCLR, Lambda Legal, Marriage Equality USA, Mass Equality, and elsewhere who have fought tirelessly for the rights of LGBT citizens; the public officials in local and ...

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Preface: Putting a Face on the Debate

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pp. xiii-xxii

It was Valentines? Day weekend 2004 when forty-eight-year-old San Diego resident Wes heard the news that they were letting same-sex cou-ples get married in San Francisco.1 His partner of twelve years, Craig, was out of town?but when he returned a few days later, Wes had an urgent proposal for him?he wanted to go to San Francisco to get mar-...

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1. Introduction: Situating the Meanings of Marriage

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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 histori-cal paraphernalia are two women?s pantsuits, one a vibrant turquoise blue and the other a deep shade of lilac. The outf_its are unremarkable ...

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2. The Road to Same-Sex Marriage: The Beginning

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pp. 20-50

The f_irst 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 in Lawrence v. Texas in June 2003 struck down sodomy laws in those thirteen states where they remained.1 Five months later the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court rendered its ...

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3. The Rite as Right: Marriage as Material Right, Marriage as Strategy

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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 ?fun-damental? 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 sta-...

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4. Marriage as Protest: The Political Dimensions of Marital Motivation

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pp. 88-126

Given Schwarzenegger?s prediction of the scene at San Francisco City Hall in 2004 when the f_irst same-sex marriages occurred there, it would hardly be a stretch for the casual news reader to assume that these mar-riages were little more than an elaborate gay rights protest. Although those who were present saw far more celebration and singing than riots ...

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5. Marriage as Validation: Subjects before (and after) the Law

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pp. 127-164

The modern institution of marriage lays claim to many meanings: com-mitment, 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 ...

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6. Making It Personal: Marriage, Emotion, and Love inside and outside the Law

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pp. 165-211

At f_irst 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 ...

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7. Conclusion: The Multiple Meanings of Marriage

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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 ...

Appendix 1: Survey Instrument

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pp. 223-228

Appendix 2: Overview of Survey Findings

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pp. 229-230


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pp. 231-240


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pp. 241-249

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About the Author

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pp. 273-273

Kimberly D. Richman is an Associate Professor of Sociology and Legal Studies at the University of San Francisco. She lives in San Francisco ...

E-ISBN-13: 9780814724194
E-ISBN-10: 0814724191
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814725467
Print-ISBN-10: 0814725465

Page Count: 272
Publication Year: 2013

OCLC Number: 801411054
MUSE Marc Record: Download for License to Wed

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Subject Headings

  • Youth -- United States -- Social conditions -- 21st century.
  • Youth -- United States -- Social life and customs -- 21st century.
  • Youth -- Political activity -- United States.
  • Social movements -- United States -- History -- 21st century.
  • Hip-hop.
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