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Thomas, Michael
Languages: English
Types: Doctoral thesis
Subjects: H1, HQ
This thesis presents a cross-national, comparative study of legal recognition for lesbian and gay couples, focusing on civil partnerships in the UK and marriage in Canada and the US State of California. The study investigates the impact of same-sex marriage and civil partnership from the perspectives of lesbian and gay couples and, in particular, addresses the social implications of couples’ new legal status. The thesis investigates the impact of marriage or civil partnership within couples’ family and friendship networks and in a range of less intimate social contexts, including the workplace, the neighbourhood and commercial settings. The thesis also analyses the impact of legal recognition on couples’ sense of citizenship and assesses the effects of the Proposition 8 referendum, which repealed existing same-sex marriage rights in California in 2008. \ud \ud Drawing on qualitative data gathered from in-depth interviews with married or civil partner same-sex couples in the UK, Canada and California, the study analyses couples’ narratives around legal recognition to identify the meanings they attach to their new legal status. In the context of the wider policy objectives of legal recognition with regard to tackling discrimination and acknowledging same-sex couples within family and other social networks, the thesis applies Erving Goffman’s analysis of stigma to this evolving policy context. The study concludes that couples broadly welcomed the legal entitlements that flowed from marriage or civil partnership, and often saw legal recognition as providing opportunities to seek social recognition from within their personal networks. However, legal recognition did not in itself guarantee social recognition, and sometimes revealed the continuing marginalisation of lesbian and gay couples within family networks and in other social settings. This highlights a distinction between legal and social recognition, and points towards a significant gap between the policy ambitions attached to marriage and civil partnership and their micro-social impact.
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