Photo by Philip N. Cohen

Contexts symposium: after marriage equality

Suddenly, the Supreme Court has declared marriage for same-sex couples a constitutional right. Now what? To help answer that, Contexts presents a symposium of short responses to the phrase, “after marriage equality.” The eleven writers featured are prominent researchers on the politics, demography, history, identity, law, and culture of where we are, how we got here, and what comes next. Together, this symposium offers a sociology of the moment. Thanks to all of them for responding so quickly to our invitation. The comment sections are open!

-Philip Cohen & Syed Ali

Andrew J. Cherlin: The triumph of family diversity

Whether the Obergefell decision will strengthen or weaken the institution of marriage, it is a major social advance.

Suzanna Danuta Walters: Feminism, gay marriage and the future of queer politics

Throwing in the towel on marriage rights, throwing down the gauntlet on feminism.

Steven W. Thrasher: Knowledge for the next generation’s movement

To train our eyes on the systemic challenges LGBT people face which can remain invisible even when in plain sight — as marriage once was.

Wendy Manning: Improved measurement of marriage

We value marriage, but we need to do a better job of collecting data and tracking marriage.

Joshua Gamson: The moment of maybe

Principles that might guide the next stages in this vibrant, ass-kicking movement.

Georgiann Davis: What’s marriage equality got to do with intersex?

What will happen to intersex people who seek gender validation through the institution of marriage?

Gary J. Gates: Adoption equality is not a sure thing 

Parenting may become something that only relatively wealthy LGBT people can afford.

Megan Carroll: Beyond legal equality for LGBT families

The legalities of gay and lesbian family formation remain complicated.

Melanie Heath: This slippery slope doesn’t lead toward patriarchal polygamy

We may need a broader discussion on what role the state should have in regulating familial and sexual intimacy.

Tina Fetner: The rise and fall of the religious right’s fight

After this ruling, and with support for lesbian and gay rights growing, right-wing activists will have to find a different issue to campaign on.

Michael W. Yarbrough: Clearing a path to liberation?

What we might learn from South Africa, where they’ve had marriage equality for nine years.

David S. Meyer: Strategies for movement survival

Tough prospects lead to ugly politics.

Comments 5

pat gleich

July 8, 2015

What a wonderful and timely addition to this important topic. I am looking forward to reading these commentaries and having this content to use as a teaching resource. As I perused this page, the question that jumped to the forefront is 'why are we calling this marriage equality'? I know the HRC and other groups have been promoting the notion of 'marriage equality', but what we have achieved stops short of that goal. We have - more or less - legal marriage for same-sex couples throughout the U.S., yes, but we have not yet reached marriage equality. As a lesbian who was married several years ago in New York to my long-time partner, but residing in a state that only very recently was forced to legalize and recognize same-sex marriage, my marriage is not yet viewed as 'equal' to that of my opposite-sex coupled colleagues and neighbors. Our state, like many others, does not protect any portion of the LGBT community as a class, so yes, my marriage is legal, but, my spouse and I do not have the same social benefits and supports or protections of those who fit the demographics of traditional marriage.
As I read headlines about clerks resigning or closing offices rather than fulfil their sworn duty to process marriage licenses for same-sex couples, or learn of the delaying strategies some states are employing to hurt and embarrass same-sex couples who wish only to exercise their legal right to marry, I do not feel very equal. And, as I wait for the anger and powerful backlash from portions of society who are rising to attempt to undue the societal change they feel was forced upon them, I do not feel very equal. I have heard my own same-sex coupled friends saying, maybe we moved too fast – maybe we should wait for attitudes to catch up before we ‘push’ this any further.
Legal marriage is not marriage equality. I appreciate the great victory that is legal marriage, While marriage equality may be on the far horizon, that horizon remains in the far, far distance.


July 9, 2015

These commentaries are ostensibly written by "prominent researchers on the politics, demography, history, identity, law, and culture" so I was a bit surprised to see a contribution by Stephen Thrasher. Although he thinks very highly of himself as a crusading investigative journalist, a more accurate description would be that of a shrill self-appointed critic of both the goals, strategies and personalities of mainstream gay activism. Of course, there is nothing inherently wrong with valid and constructive criticism within minority social movements and the prodding of radicals is often necessary in such movements. The problem with Thrasher is that he seems more invested in stylistic shock value that fails to deliver on much substantive analysis. Indeed. his polemics seem invested in an almost reactionary nostalgia for an idealized sexual utopia that supposedly flourished in that narrow window post-stonewall but pre-aids. He bitterly attacks anyone that fails to adhere to a set of sexual norms that reject monogamy and privileges frequent casual sex divorced from any emotional relationships as a form of false consciousness masking internalized homophobia. Ironically, he commits the very sin that he attributes to the rest of us - universalizing his personal preference as normative. He was infamous for his rants in the Village Voice and the occasional screed in Gawker chastising gays for failing to adhere to his political ideology - whether it be anti-war, anti-capitalism, etc. I'm not sure why the editor of this journal selected a fairly obscure polemicist with no academic credentials when all the other contributors seem to be legitimate academics.

Philip Cohen

July 9, 2015

Steven's contribution speaks for itself. Not all credentials are academic, and not all researchers have PhDs.

Carol Adams

June 14, 2018

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