On the Road to Same-Sex Marriage: A Supportive Guide to Psychological, Political, and Legal Issues; Robert P. Cabaj; and David W. Purcell, Eds

By Mezey, Nancy | Transformations, March 31, 1999 | Go to article overview

On the Road to Same-Sex Marriage: A Supportive Guide to Psychological, Political, and Legal Issues; Robert P. Cabaj; and David W. Purcell, Eds


Mezey, Nancy, Transformations


On the Road to Same-Sex Marriage: A Supportive Guide to Psychological, Political, and Legal Issues. Robert P. Cabaj and David W. Purcell, eds.

San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Publishers, 1998. Hardcover. 224 pages. $23.00.

The editors of this book remark that we are currently living in a time of great social change. As greater numbers of lesbians and gay men gain personal pride in their sexual identities and "come out" to the public, lesbian and gay families have greater visibility. Despite this increased visibility, or perhaps because of it, there has been a strong backlash in the name of "family values" based on strict heterosexual models. Embedded within this tumultuous social backdrop, lesbians and gay men are fighting for the right to marry their same-sex partners. Thus, this book, which focuses on the history, progression, and roadblocks of same-sex marriage, is timely.

Although the main purpose of the book is to understand the psychological and legal issues of same-sex marriage, the book covers a wide variety of topics. It discusses the history of homosexuality and same-sex relationships, current trends in same-sex marriage, the impact legal trends have on lesbian families, emotional and psychological aspects of same-sex relationships, religious ceremonies sanctifying same-sex marriage, and policies other countries have concerning same-sex marriage and partnerships. Thus, this book is relevant for various disciplines, including psychology, legal studies, sociology, and anthropology.

Despite the breadth of information covered, several chapters offer more informative and critical analyses of same-sex marriage than do others. For example, David Purcell presents a cultural and sociological analysis of the current trends of same-sex marriage. He discusses the increased visibility of lesbians and gays in the 1980s and 1990s, efforts to legalize same-sex marriage in Hawaii, and the backlash of federal and state governments. This is an enlightening and timely chapter because it places same-sex marriage in the United States within its social and cultural contexts.

Kathryn Kendell examines the impact legal trends have on lesbian families. Focusing on custody battles, Kendell discusses the negative consequences of non-legalized partnerships on children. She also discusses how legal rights (such as second-parent adoption and domestic partnerships) are inadequate solutions since they are not available to lesbians and gays nationwide. This chapter is particularly significant because it looks at how the legal system not only personally impacts lesbians and their children, but also how it helps shape and define families in general.

Addressing the question of whether legalizing same-sex marriage will strengthen psychological and emotional conditions of gay and lesbian relationships, Mark Townsend discusses mental health aspects of these relationships and examines the effects of marriage on the mental health of heterosexual couples. He also speculates on the potential impact same-sex marriage will have on children's mental health. This chapter is important because Townsend does not glorify same-sex marriage, as do some of the other authors. In addition, Townsend does not automatically rely on biological explanations of homosexuality but looks to possible social constructionist explanations.

Lowell Tong's excellent chapter offers a thought-provoking social and historical analysis. Tong compares the historical struggle to end mixed-race marriage laws with the current struggle to legalize same-sex marriage. He shows how race, sexuality, and marriage are socially contructed and how the definitions of each have changed over time.

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