QUEER UNIONS: Same-Sex Spouses Marrying Tradition and Innovation
Same-sex civil marriage is a focal point of debate among social conservatives, feminists, queer critics and lesbian and gay assimilationists. In this paper, I draw on in-depth interviews of thirty same-sex married spouses to explore how actual same-sex marriages relate to these debates. Among these spouses, civil marriage is perceived to provide significant legal, social and psychological resources that, in effect, consolidate the nuclear family and the institution of marriage. Yet, conversely, these spouses do not uniformly embrace traditional norms of marriage, but, rather, adopt a range of nontraditional norms and practices that, in effect, destabilize the traditional marital form. In sociological terms, however, their complexity is not surprising, as contemporary lesbians and gay men are dually socialized in the dialectic of a dominant “meaning-constitutive” tradition (Gross 2005) that valorizes (heterosexual) marriage and kinship, on the one hand, but a queer-meaning constitutive tradition that promotes sexual freedom and nontraditional gender relations, on the other. In this sense, one important sociological question for the future is the extent to which the increasing availability of same-sex marriage will transform the dialectic, eroding the structural conditions that underpin a distinctive queer meaning-constitutive tradition and, in turn, same-sex marital innovation.
same-sex marriage; queer-meaning; gender relations