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The re-branding of marriage: Why we got married instead of registering a civil partnership

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Publication details

JournalFeminism and Psychology
DatePublished - Feb 2004
Issue number1
Number of pages24
Pages (from-to)127-150
Original languageEnglish


Recent developments in same-sex partnership legislation are reviewed in the light of human rights activism, feminist and LGBT debates, and our own decision to marry. We argue that critiques of marriage based on its reproduction of gendered power relations or its reinforcement of compulsory heterosexuality cannot be applied without problems to same-sex marriage, but that other critiques remain clearly relevant: in particular, state surveillance and regulation of relationships, and the normative construction of 'the couple' as a basic social unit. Civil partnership is no more exempt from these latter criticisms than is marriage itself. The re-branding of marriage as 'civil partnership' is useful to governments in enabling them to extend rights to, and control over, same-sex relationships while reserving the privileged status of 'marriage' for heterosexuals only. Under the camouflage of new nomenclature, marriage 'in all but name' is rendered attractive to feminists and other radicals whose critique does not extend to the re-branded version. We argue that the powerful symbolic meanings of marriage - to the right wing and to feminists - both provides evidence of the need for, and stands in the way of same-sex marriage legislation.

    Research areas

  • civil marriage, civil partnership legislation, feminist critiques of marriage, human rights, religious marriage, same-sex marriage, FAMILY

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