Does Same-Sex Marriage Change the Relationships with Families of Origin?

Monday, 16 July 2018: 17:30
Oral Presentation
Gaëlle MESLAY, University Paris-Sorbonne / INED, France
Several studies have highlighted the specificities of kin relationships among gays and lesbians, especially their greater distance from biological families and their preference for “families of choice” [1], defined by elective links including partners, ex-lovers, friends, and some selected kin… (Donovan, Heaphy & Weeks, 2001 ; Weston, 1997). But at the same time, even if the responses are not always positive, events like births or marriage can also bring the couple and their parents closer together, since these steps can redefine roles in the family and generate a desire for inclusion and “reconciliation” (Smart, 2007). For example, the birth of a child often strengthens the ties between a same-sex couple and their parents as these latter are much likely to accept their role as grandparents even if they have difficulty accepting their child's homosexuality (Cadoret, 2002). In this context, the opening of marriage to same-sex couples in France in 2013 enables same-sex partners to be legally recognized as spouses and thus obtain a status similar to others. But how does this legal recognition of their relationship affect their kin network? Do families of origin readily accept a same-sex couple's decision to marry? Does the marriage lead to conflict or, on the contrary, to closer relationships? In different-sex weddings, most of the extended family is invited and parents sometimes take part in the organization (Maillochon, 2016), but for now we know little about the ceremonies of same-sex couples. Through a qualitative study of 35 men and women married to someone of the same sex in France, I will study the influence of legal unions and the changes in relationships with kin after the partners announce that they are going to marry.

[1] Coming-out tends to be difficult because parents sometimes deprecate homosexuality (Weston, 1997), which might explain their children's distance.