Beyond (Straight and Gay) Marriage: Valuing All Families under the Law

Beyond (Straight and Gay) Marriage: Valuing All Families under the Law

by Nancy D. Polikoff, Michael Bronski

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The debate over marriage equality for same-sex couples rages across the country. Beyond (Straight and Gay) Marriage boldly moves the discussion forward by focusing on the larger, more fundamental issue of marriage and the law. The root problem, asserts law professor and LGBT rights activist Nancy Polikoff, is that marriage is a bright dividing line between those relationships that legally matter and those that don't. A woman married to a man for nine months is entitled to Social Security survivor's benefits when he dies; a woman living for nineteen years with a man or woman to whom she is not married receives nothing.

Polikoff reframes the debate by arguing that all family relationships and households need the economic stability and emotional peace of mind that now extend only to married couples. Unmarried couples of any sexual orientation, single-parent households, extended family units, and myriad other familial configurations need recognition and protection to meet the concerns they all share: building and sustaining economic and emotional interdependence, and nurturing the next generation.

Couples should have the choice to marry based on the spiritual, cultural, or religious meaning of marriage in their lives, asserts Polikoff. While marriage equality for same-sex couples is a civil rights victory, she contends that no one should have to marry in order to reap specific and unique legal results.

A persuasive argument that married couples should not receive special rights denied to other families, Polikoff shows how the law can value all families, and why it must.

From the Hardcover edition.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780807044346
Publisher: Beacon Press
Publication date: 02/01/2008
Series: Queer Ideas/Queer Action , #3
Sold by: Penguin Random House Publisher Services
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 256
File size: 341 KB

About the Author

Nancy Polikoff is a Professor of Law at American University Washington College of Law, where she teaches Sexuality and the Law and has taught Family Law for more than 20 years. Previously, she supervised the family law programs of the Women's Legal Defense Fund, and before that she practiced law as part of a feminist law collective, where she specialized in family law. For more than 30 years, she has been writing about, speaking about, and litigating cases involving lesbian and gay families. Professor Polikoff's articles have appeared in many law journals, including those at University of Chicago, Georgetown, Harvard, Hastings, and Hofstra. Her history of the development of the law affecting lesbian and gay parenting appears as a chapter in the 2000 book, Creating Change: Sexuality, Public Policy, and Civil Rights, edited by John D'Emilio, William Turner, and Urvashi Vaid. Professor Polikoff was successful appellate counsel in the case that the established the right of lesbian and gay couples to jointly adopt children in the District of Columbia, and in a Maryland case overturning a visitation order prohibiting any contact between a gay noncustodial father's children and his life partner. Visit her website at

Michael Bronski
 is professor of practice in media and activism in the Women, Gender, and Sexuality Program at Harvard University. He has written extensively on LGBT issues for four decades, in both mainstream and queer publications, and is the author of three other books and editor of several anthologies. 

Table of Contents

A Note from the Series Editor ix

Introduction 1

1 The Changing Meaning of Marriage 11

2 Gay Rights and the Conservative Backlash 34

3 Redefining Family 46

4 The Right and the Marriage Movement 63

5 LGBT Families and the Marriage-Equality Movement 83

6 Countries Where Marriage Matters Less 110

7 Valuing All Families 123

8 Domestic Partner Benefits for All Families 146

9 Coping with Illness: Medical Care and Family and Medical Leave 159

10 When a Relationship Ends through Dissolution or Death: Distributing Assets and Providing for Children 174

11 Losing an Economic Provider: Wrongful Death, Workers' Compensation, and Social Security 193

Conclusion 208

Acknowledgments 215

Notes 217

Index 243

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