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

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

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

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


Beyond (Straight and Gay) Marriage reframes the family-rights debate by arguing that marriage shouldn't bestow special legal privileges upon couples because people, both heterosexual and LGBT, live in a variety of relationships-including unmarried couples of any sexual orientation, single-parent households, extended biological family units, and myriad other familial configurations. Nancy D. Polikoff shows how the law can value all families, and why it must.


Karen Thompson had a problem. Her lover of four years, Sharon Kowalski, lay in a hospital bed, having suffered a brain injury caused when a car operated by a drunk driver collided with her car on a stormy Minnesota night. Because Karen wasn't a family member, the nursing staff would not let her see Sharon; this would be the beginning of a decade-long struggle pitting Karen against Sharon's parents over control of Sharon's treatment.

Susan Burns had a problem. The divorce decree awarding custody of her three children to their father stated that the children could not visit her if at any time during their stay she was living with or spending overnights with a person to whom she was not legally married. More than four years later, on July 1, 2000, Vermont instituted civil unions for same-sex couples. Susan entered into a civil union with her partner on July 3. When the children spent the night in the home Susan shared with her partner, a judge found her in contempt of court.

Larry Courtney had a problem. His partner of fourteen years, Eugene Clark, did not come home from his job on the 102nd floor of the south tower of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. When Larry filed a workers' compensation claim, the reviewing agency replied that he did not qualify for benefits, which might instead be paid to Eugene's father, from whom Eugene had been estranged for twenty years.

Lisa Stewart had a problem. At thirty-three, and with a five-yearold daughter, Emily, she was diagnosed with breast cancer, which became terminal. She was unable to continue working as a real estate appraiser and lost her income and her health insurance. Her partner of ten years, Lynn, had insurance through her job, but it did not cover Lisa and Emily. Lisa and Lynn live in South Carolina, which does not allow “second-parent” adoption, so Lisa is Emily's only legally rec-

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