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

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

by Kimberly D. Richman
     
 

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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

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Overview

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?

License to Wed 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.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
02/01/2014
Richman's (sociology, Univ. of San Francisco) book examines the impact of marriage on same-sex couples who were the first to marry in California and Massachusetts when gay marriage was legalized in those states in 2004. Based on surveys and follow-up interviews with 1,467 couples who applied for marriage licenses in 2004, the book tells the stories of these couples and the reasons why they married. The author then uses these stories to discuss the fight for same-sex marriage rights and the historic shift in attitudes that has occurred within the last ten years. She argues that marriage removes legal obstacles that are not faced by heterosexual couples, including medical decision-making, child-custody issues, and property considerations. Additionally, gay couples reported that marriage, as opposed to other types of legal unions, validated their relationships in the eyes of others. Still other couples said that marriage gave them a sense of security and self-worth. Richman concludes that gay couples marry for many reasons. VERDICT This book addresses a timely and still evolving issue with directness and sensitivity while rigorously examining the legal basis for same-sex marriage. Readers who are interested in the subject will want to read this. Recommended for law, academic, and large public libraries.—Becky Kennedy, Atlanta-Fulton P.L.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780814725467
Publisher:
New York University Press
Publication date:
12/30/2013
Pages:
271
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.10(d)

Meet the Author

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

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