Same-Sex Marriage, Legal Mobilization, and the Politics of Rights

By Lewin, Ellen | Journal of Marriage and Family, November 2003 | Go to article overview

Same-Sex Marriage, Legal Mobilization, and the Politics of Rights


Lewin, Ellen, Journal of Marriage and Family


Same-Sex Marriage, Legal Mobilization, and the Politics of Rights. Martin Dupuis. New York: Peter Lang. 2002. 196 pp. ISBN: 0-820-45560-1. $29.95 (paper).

Same-sex marriage and its poor cousin, domestic partnership, are rapidly evolving phenomena, thought by some to be the foundation of all future rights for sexual minorities, and excoriated by others as cowardly submission to banal conventionality. Martin Dupuis, an assistant professor of political science at Western Illinois University, has been inspired by this acrimonious debate to consider the varied legal landscape related to same-sex marriage. His survey focuses mostly on the United States, offering some highlights of the history of the gay rights movement, moving on to describe varied judicial responses to same-sex marriage over the years, and focusing in particular on the details of recent legislative and judicial actions in Hawaii, Alaska, and Vermont. A comparative chapter, in which Dupuis offers an overview of recent legal developments in other countries, is also included. The information he provides is often useful, even as his descriptions of the various cases rarely get past the "high points." For anyone needing a quick source of basic information on the major legal developments in this field, the book makes the key cases readily accessible.

Unfortunately, the potential value of this slim volume to scholars in the social sciences is undermined by a number of serious problems. First among these is a plodding style, with awkward and sometimes illogical transitions. The book suffers, too, from such numerous editorial errors that one hesitates to record any information for research purposes. Names of authors are spelled every which way, even on the same page; dates of important events fluctuate; and tables include some, but not all, of the results they purport to summarize. Some works cited make it into the bibliography, whereas others mysteriously vanish and must be dug out of footnotes. Typographical errors, incorrect punctuation, and other such annoyances abound. It is difficult to be confident about material in a volume when its production has been so cavalier.

More important than these problems, however, are logical lapses that leave the reader confused at best. In a chapter that reports on measures in various other countries to legitimize same-sex relationships, for example, Dupuis discusses Denmark's landmark 1989 domestic partnership registration act, detailing the rights it extends to gay and lesbian couples and the rights it withholds. Most notably, the Danish measure does not extend any rights to adoption or permit joint custody of children either partner brings to the family. Even more startling, considering the progressive language used to describe the legislation in Denmark, heterosexual couples and single women have access to artificial insemination, but registered lesbians do not. Nor can same-sex couples qualify for church weddings. In Dupuis' words, "the domestic partnership registration act limits same-sex couples' ability to form a family" (p. 123). Later, he is even blunter, saying, "The law institutionalized homosexual relationships as second-class by omitting the rights to adoption and church weddings" (p. …

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