From UBC Wiki


[1]Man putting engagement ring on woman's finger

Marriage (MAIR-ij) is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as "the legally or formally recognized union of two people as partners in a personal relationship." Through an examination of historical instances, it becomes clear that within heterosexual marriages, there has always been an unequal distribution of labour between two spouses. This uneven allocation of labour does not stem explicitly from the practice of marriage, but rather is shaped by the enforced gender roles and expectations that are placed on both men and women in our society. These expectations result in disparities of labour within the household, with women taking the majority of unpaid domestic work, and men engaging more within the legitimate workforce. Similarly, the concept of marriage exists in political, economic, and environmental discourse as a socio-ecological process; and by exploring these relationships, it can be understood how capitalism leads to the commodification of love, intimacy, and the natural environment through the exploitation of women's labour. Additionally, marriage as a concept has changed drastically over the years, starting as an economic union then evolving into the mainstream idea of marriage in the means of love. Different cultures incorporate marriage into their society differently, as primarily Eastern cultures are known for having arranged marriages to this day. Religion adds another layer to the discourse surrounding queer marriages, as many religious institutions have historically opposed same-sex unions. However, some progressive religious communities have embraced LGBTQ+ inclusion and perform same-sex marriage ceremonies, illustrating the diversity of perspectives within religious contexts. As marriage has changed, it has become less of a priority in society, illustrated by rising divorce rates and other emerging forms of intimacy such as casual sex and online dating. As our understandings of marriage change and more queer and plural marriages emerge, hetero-normative and mono-normative gendered expectations are imposed onto marriages that do not fit into societal expectations. These 'other' unions break gendered stereotypes and expectations despite their sexuality and gender being marginalized. Parenthood is also an increasing struggle for queer, plural marriages, with the individuals being questioned for the validity of the quality of upbringing that they can provide for their children.

Marriage & Labour

[2]18th century woman cleaning

Prior to industrialization, everything was produced within the home, and domestic labour was shared between married men and women. However, during the eighteenth century, the industrial revolution severed these ties between the home and the workplace, and labour production was moved outside the house.[3] Due to this change, men and women were assigned different expectations regarding their labour. Men were urged to find work within factory industries, while women were left to care for the home and the children. Even as scientific advancements made housework less intensive, these labour dynamics nonetheless remained present, and married women continued to contribute a disproportionate amount of their time to unpaid domestic labour. In the 1980s, as feminist movements grew, married women eventually began to reduce their contributions within the home, and men began to increase theirs.[3] However, this change was not a drastic one, and women remained responsible for approximately three times more domestic work than men. In a study done by the ILO and UN-Women in 2020, when looking at data from 107 countries of men and women aged 25-54, single women were seen as much more likely to participate in the paid labour economy, when compared to married women. The inverse is true for men; married men were more involved in the labour market, and single men were less involved. These statistics suggest that marriage drives up male participation in the legitimate labour force, while it drives down women’s.[4] This being said, as the study did not record domestic labour engagement, there is no formal connection made between the decline of paid labour for women, and the rise of domestic labour. However, given the consistency of these 2020 statistics with historical data and prevailing ideologies, it is reasonable to assume that a correlation between the two exists.

The uneven distribution of unpaid housework is not born out of the institution of marriage. Rather, it is rooted in historical gender roles assigned to men and women, which persist in our society even today. Nevertheless, marriage has provided an ideal setting for these gender roles to play manifest in. An attempt to justify these unequal distributions of unpaid labour often revolves around the notion that household work should be assigned to the spouse who spends less time in the formal workforce. This implies that regardless of gender, the individual who does not work outside the home to financially support the family should handle domestic tasks. This framework is flawed; throughout history, women have been excluded from the paid labour market due to sexist ideologies, resulting on a disproportionate burden of household tasks falling on them. Nonetheless, this longstanding assumption has fostered a societal belief that paid labour is “men’s work”, and unpaid domestic labour is “women’s work”. These beliefs are deeply ingrained in societal consciousness, as they are reinforced by presupposed gender roles assigned to men and women. This can be seen through examination of labour distributions within the entire family, particularly among children. Female children are frequently assigned more chores than male children, especially in lower-income families where children are required to contribute significantly to housework.[3] This example reinforces the idea that gender roles serve as the organizing factor behind unequal distributions of unpaid housework. Within these governing societal expectations, the designated role of the man within a heterosexual marriage is that of the breadwinner; he is responsible for financially supporting his female spouse and children. These societal expectations on both men and women in a marital context aligns with what Australian sociologist R.W. Connell introduces as “hegemonic masculinity” and “emphasized femininity”— two terms that are processes of performing gender in culturally and socially expected ways.[5] Hegemonic masculinity can be defined as the “form of masculinity that is more highly valued in society and is rooted in the social dominance of men over women and non-hegemonic men.” [5] Emphasized femininity is understood as a reaction to hegemonic masculinity as “the pattern of femininity which is given most cultural and ideological support.” [5] These two terms encompass the organizing gender roles that have been assigned to men and women throughout history. Men in this framework are assumed to be strong, unemotional, and protecting, while women are expected to submit to this framework. Women are thus reduced to their domestic and reproductive capabilities. As women are forced to work in keeping the house clean and raising children, men are expected to work within the legitimate market, financially supporting the family. Moreover, in today’s economic climate, it is unlikely for one income to sustain a family, necessitating both parents to work full-time. However, despite these economic realities, these expectations persist, and women continue to shoulder the majority of unpaid labour such as housework, childcare, and shopping.

To understand the effects of these labour disparities on women throughout history, we can examine historical instances. During early European colonization, once the immigration ban on European women was lifted, and white women were permitted to join their husbands in the colonies, their roles in society became strictly defined. European women were thus educated in the management of domestic life in this new context, seen as “auxiliary forces” in the colonial effort—expected to uphold colonial values, and protect their male counterparts from cultural and sexual interactions with the colonized. [3] European wives were made to ensure that “the home be happy and gay… keep order, peace, hygiene, and economy.” [3] The focus on maintaining domestic prosperity and keeping a clean household highlights evident asymmetries in the division of unpaid labour within the European family. Another historical example that sheds light on this issue is found within colonial archives and female accounts within the Lindi district. Similar conclusions emerge from interviews with women about their experiences during the decolonization period in Tanzania. [6] Due to a rising growth of a male-dominated wage-labour market, the gendered division of labour within households became strained. The responsibility of household food production, as well as the involvement within the household economy fell disproportionately on women. These changes threatened the previous collaboration between spouses in household production, intensifying women’s workloads as well as their feelings of vulnerability. [6]

After examining historical and contemporary statistics regarding the economic and social inequalities attributed to marriage, the question arises of how to address this issue. Indigenous scholar Kim Tallbear suggests possible solutions around issues resulting from the traditional institution of marriage. She suggests that “settler marriage with its compulsory monogamy, nuclear family and property obsessions” challenges dynamics that are integral to alternative ways of living outside the imposed colonial framework that structures our society. [5] Tallbear provides numerous examples within her article that illustrate the ways in which living within this rigidly imposed marital model often leads to unhappiness and dissatisfaction. She suggests that a shift to a different way of living could be a potential way to address this issue. The solution that Tallbear proposes in this article is a shift to polyamorous relationships, (non-monogamous relationships where individuals have multiple romantic or sexual relationships simultaneously). Although Tallbear specifically advocates for polyamorous connections as a solution for marital unhappiness, I argue that the point of this argument can be applied more broadly. Tallbear’s article outlines the ways in which romantic and sexual relationships are complex and personal endeavours; marriage is not as simple as commonly depicted. [5] Therefore, by considering more fluid and non-traditional relationship dynamics, marriage is brought into the contemporary context, allowing for shifts in traditional gender roles and labour inequalities.

Marriage, Capitalism, & the Environment

In historical European contexts, traditional forms of marriage were focused on the exchange of resources, and hierarchical conceptions of class and gender ensured that strict adherence to traditional gendered divisions of labour and socioeconomic power was rigidly maintained.[7] Similarly, across the world, there are countless scenarios of the exploitation of women's labour through marriage, from the early 20th century in the Dutch East Indies[3] or the late 1800s to the early 1900s in Canada,[4]one example of exploitation was seen through the role of a wife being expected to curtail racial degeneracy by closely surveilling husbands while also providing leisure, good spirit, and creature comforts within the home. The exploitation of women's labour continued with the shift to patriarchal capitalism, as this exploitation was seen as natural.[8] Additionally, women would do the socially necessary production that capitalism finds unprofitable and take the blame for capitalism's failures.[8]

Next, the twentieth-century transformation of capitalism in the United States altered its patriarchal features from family-centered to industrial-centered, where the patriarchal controls over women and the exploitation of their labour took place more by ruling-class men to the benefit of themselves and all other men, rather than through husbands and families.[8] More specifically, the value of women's labour in the home decreased, while the growth of capitalism required an expanding labour force that could only come from drawing women out of the home and into wage labour.[8] Thus, capitalism receives a double benefit- the unpaid labour of women provides reproductive services (e.g., personal services like cooking and cleaning that keep family members safe and happy) to the system as well as to the husband; and the paid labour of women creates profit for the employer.[8]

Therefore, the capitalist drive for profit motivates an endless push for efficiency, and the desire to be the most productive in the least amount of time is used to justify the sexual division of labour that relegates women's labour into household and caring work, as women supposedly have a comparative advantage in that work.[9] Furthermore, the notion of "love" and its role in marital relationships and the formation of nuclear families has helped patriarchal and capitalist relations evolve into an oppressive set of relations that may be based more on gender performance than on biological sex.[9]

Regarding love in today's neoliberal capitalist context, in general, neoliberal policies and practices have negatively affected familial life by expanding the power of markets, corporations, and individual objectives at the expense of social, community, ecological, and interpersonal assets and capabilities.[10] Under neoliberal conditions, holistic love is unable to develop sufficiently, resulting in stunted personalities and psycho-cultural malaise.[10] The individualist form of love stimulated by market capitalism is inauthentic and tends to privatize the experience rather than link it to the common good and the community.[10] Hence, love in most capitalist societies is seen as intimacy between two persons; whereas "real love" resides in the oneness of the individual with those around them, including the community as a whole.[10]

Furthermore, in modern capitalist economies, the "common habitat and interest" side of a relationship may be dominated by a concern with money and success, potentially leading to dissolution and insinuating how people's status, class, income, etc., (factors determined by capitalism) go into influencing whom an individual loves.[10] A similar concern is seen in the delay of marriage to make oneself more "marriage material."[11] Consequently, over the past few decades, the increasing tendency for "money and position" as well as individual objectives to take precedence in relationships has resulted in institutionalized serial monogamy in the United States.[11] Serial monogamy has led to partners in a marriage being treated like land, as they are seen as property to be invested in and developed for a sufficient return.[5]

Finally, the destructive creation of market capitalism progressively substitutes market relations for personal relations, and wage labour for non-market relations of intimacy and love.[10] More specifically, it stimulates competition between people in the realm of intimate relations, turns human relationships into alienated experiences based on money and equal exchanges, transforms love into sex, and sex into commodities, and leaves little time for people to regenerate their intimate connections; thus generating a perpetual nurturance gap.[10] Therefore, love under neoliberal economies tends to undergo several phases of evolution: the social dimension usually fails to emerge; intimacy is inhibited by work, study, unemployment, and other pressures; and competition and individual concerns limit the generation of freedom, social spread, intimacy, and commitment.[10] Because of these effects caused by the current institutional arrangements, people lack the connections that would enhance their lives, thus stunting the growth of love.[10]

Marriage, capitalism, and the environment all relate through commodification. As seen with the relation to marriage and neoliberal capitalism, intimacy or intimate relations can be understood as if they have entered the market: they are bought or sold, packaged and advertised; fetishized, commercialized, or objectified; consumed or assigned values and prices; and linked in many cases to transnational mobility and migration, echoing a global capitalist flow of goods.[6] For example, consumer culture takes the human longing for love and packages it as a longing for goods, services, and experiences that express love.[12] For instance, the commodification of gender roles is used to promote the institution of marriage and the wedding industry as a whole, specifically by constructing an ideal of femininity portrayed through the narrative of a bride.[12] Thus, the domestic role adopted by women (feminine, maternal, married) is commercialized and becomes a marketable product that "sells," fulfilling the structural needs of a patriarchal and capitalist society by reinforcing gender differences and inequalities.[12] As a result, femininity can be marketed as a commodity to fulfill a woman's need to belong to a society, and heterosexual relationships and marriage imply the subordination of women to men through the accomplishment of prescribed stereotypes and social roles.[12]

Hence, nature and society are inextricably bound; as social processes (e.g., globalization) are also ecological projects in that they seek to rework the relations between human beings and the rest of nature.[13] Similarly, capitalism transforms the socio-ecological order, so it can be understood as an ecological regime- a way of ordering the relationship between humans and their environment.[13] The fundamental features of capitalism include accelerating the pace of environmental degradation, while using this degradation as a way to accumulate more money,[13] and the oppression of women through patriarchy with the exploitation of their labour.[8] Moreover, environmental assumptions, being political and socioeconomic, are complementary to the assumptions of connectedness in romantic relationships and the practice of mutuality, as environmental assumptions support communicative "teamwork" for fulfilling extra-personal goals, such as creating a satisfying romantic relationship.[7] Ultimately, under capitalism, adopting a crude economic view of love, a social phenomenon, results in environmental destruction and commodification, financial instability, insufficient nurturance, intimacy, and freedom, and the commodification of love,[10] all manifested through the exploitation of labour, but specifically that of a woman's.

Marriage & Cultural Evolution

The union of Marriage has been around since 2350 B.C., where the first marriage ceremony between one man and one woman took place in Mesopotamia, Iraq[14]. In this time marriage had little to do with love or religion and instead a ceremony to bind women to men, ensuring that any child the wife had were his biologically heir. The betrothal ceremony was essentially selling the wife to the husband as property, the father of the bride giving his daughter to her husband by saying, "I pledge my daughter for the purpose of producing legitimate offspring."[14] Marriage had become a cultural norm across the world as time passed, Ancient Hebrews, Greeks, and Romans involving marriage in their society. Marriage was merely a means to own property and bear children, Ancient Hebrews were allowed to take multiple wives, and Ancient Greeks and Romans sexual urges could be satisfied outside of the relationship with concubines, prostitutes, and male lovers, while wives stayed home and cared for the children[14].

[15]A bride and a groom being wed in Surat, India

In other countries, often seen in Eastern societies, there are arranged marriages. These are when a person, often family member, decides and arranges for two people to be wed[16]. Many countries have had arranged marriages be part of their culture for centuries and are seen in daily life, as well as in royalty. These marriages are often consensual, however there are forced marriages that take place due to a threat from family or friends of the social, or even financial consequences of not going through with the ceremony.[16] Arranged marriages are still culturally accepted to the present day and more work and activism is going into the defense against forced marriages, as they are illegal in many countries. During the 18th century primarily Western cultures, society had begun shifting away from parents making the decision of who their child will marry, and instead young adults were looking for companionship in the means of love. This shift is due to the Industrial Revolution, where cities had began emerging and families or young adults would leave the countryside to try and make ends meet in the growing world. This was a time for the "Enlightenment Era,"[17] in which young adults began to changer their perspective to one of individuality and thinking of decision on the means of happiness instead of how it will effect the family. In previous marriages, falling in love or growing proper companionship was not unheard of after years of already being wed, however not everyone experienced this and some were left in unloving unions[18]. During this time of romantic exploration, the practices of courtship had emerged as, primarily men, would try and flatter or woo the girl of his liking, in the hopes to become his future bride.[18]

[19]Two Girls in Love

Same-sex activity has been around for centuries, however marriage was seen to be purely for heterosexual couples in many cultures and religions. Homosexuality was originally seen as a mental disease and was even illegal in some countries, making gay people unable to show their sexuality without being imprisoned or publicly hated. It wouldn't be until the 1970's that homosexuality was removed from the DSM, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, and no longer viewed homosexuality or homosexual behaviour as a mental disorder. From this point on, while it was far from accepted or legalized, gay people were more open with their orientation and relationships.

Many countries had legalized homosexuality, however gay marriage is still a tested debate that is not legal in many places. The first country to legalize gay marriage was The Netherlands in 2001, starting a trend in the early 2000's where countries globally began to recognize homosexual couples and legalize their marriages. From 2001 onwards 36 countries have legalized gay marriage, Canada legalizing it in 2005. There are countries just now legalizing gay marriage, Greece being the most recent in 2024, and more countries hopefully continuing the trend and legalize in the coming years.

Marriage has evolved quite drastically in recent years, both the 20th and 21st centuries have major changes to the cultural dynamics of marriage. The largest change in the realm of marriage is the birth of divorce. Divorce has been around for centuries, however it was severely stigmatized and wasn't easily accessible for woman as they had to prove why they wished to be divorced. Throughout the years as divorce became legal in many countries and marriages based on love were growing, divorce rates had been continually growing alongside. The 1900's were a primary time for marriages as many people got married and had children after soldiers are returned home from war. In the 1960s the US reported a boom in divorce rates during this time, many believe this was due to woman's suffrage movements and women's rights. Women in what were abusive or controlling marriages had felt freer to leave their spouse due to the rise of women's rights, and with women working meant they weren't financially dependent on their partner. The divorce rates continued to rise as society progressed and became more open to not only female independence but the idea of growing a career for both men and women instead of marrying or having a family. In the current era divorce rates are high and around 50% of marriages lead to divorce, and not many are sure of the exact reason as to why. Some people point to the change of commitment in society, as we have become more free and loose from strict societal pressures, and there's also the issue of financial troubles and lower fertility rates.

Marriage is still a large part of society as a whole, however it is not as big as it once was and new ventures of romance and intimacy have been born in its wake. The birth of online dating is a relatively new phenomenon as people around the globe are becoming more connected through the internet and finding their partners of choice through dating apps and online forums. With this new rise of technology and romance, hookup culture has widely expanded. Hookup culture has been popularized since the 1900s, growing more with time as we see people explore sexuality throughout the 70s as a time of free love, however through the internet hookup culture has shifted. Situation-ships such as friend with benefits and open relationships are become widely more popular and accessible through hookup apps or social media, people meeting online before moving to in person arrangements. With this birth of hookup culture we see strategic ambiguity become more popular and accepted,[20] new phrase like 'fooling around', or the term 'hooking up' itself are ways in which people can be ambiguous in their language around their sex life.

The LGBTQ+ community is becoming more accepted in this new era of marriage, as not only is gay marriage legalized, but new form of queer relationships are emerging in popularity, a notable one being polyamory.[21] Being polyamorous has been around for centuries, meaning a relationship or sexual encounter with multiple people at once, however within a legal polyamorous couple, only two of the people are allowed to be legally wed. Polyamory is becoming more accepted as binaries are being deconstructed and the idea of a typical relationship is changing as time goes on.

Queer Marriage & Gender Roles

The heterosexual, monogamous, ‘holy union under God’ has been the ever-present image of marriage displayed all around us in Western society. A relationship pre-established with gender roles involving the bread-winning, strong, dominant man as the head of the household and the child-rearing, dutiful, humble wife as the homemaker who provides a clean home and hot meal. This imagery is all too common and in many ways it has been portrayed as the ideal relationship that a person should strive to achieve. However, this dynamic is unachievable for any relationship which does not abide by the extreme expectations of hegemonic masculinity and emphasized femininity[22]. This largely includes queer, gender non-conforming, polyamorous/plural relationships and many more. But how do gendered expectations specifically translate into non-heterosexual, non-monogamous relationships? In this section, I will explore specifically how queer and plural marriages break certain gender stereotypes and how, in some ways, queer and plural marriages conform to certain gender stereotypes. Firstly, it is necessary to clarify who I am referring to when using the terms queer and plural. The umbrella term ‘non-monogamy’ refers to a variety of relationships that do not fall under the hetero-normative and mono-normative understandings of relationships. Plural or polyamorous relationships are those where more than two people are consensually involved intimately and/or sexually [23]. Queerness in the past referred to same-sex relationships and sexual intimacies that provoked legal or social condemnation [24]. Nowadays, it can refer to anyone who does not identify with hetero-normative understandings of sexuality and is not associated with the negative meanings of the past. It is also important to note that queer and plural marriages are also researched far less because of the legality of marriage in the near past. Many countries still have not legalized plural and gay marriage and due to this marriage is less common. For this reason, I will be referring to queer and plural relationships which reflect our understanding of marriage as partnerships because marriage is not always accessible. This does not devalue the validity of partnerships and marriages between same-sex and plural couples.

Lesbian couple marrying[25]

Queerness and queer relationships have consistently been marginalized in our hetero-normative and mono-normative society throughout history. People who identified and lived non-heterosexual lives were discriminated against and targets of hate for centuries. Homosexuality and gay marriage were not even legalized until the past twenty years, this left a large gap in research around queerness and queer relationships. Queer relationships were hardly studied until homosexuality was removed from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) in 1973 [24]. As studies have further developed, queerness has come to be understood separately as its own concept and through its own dynamics and practices. While these studies are centred around cisgendered same-sex relationships, they still hold valuable insight into the roles that are present in queer relationships. Studies have found that queer and hetero relationships have few differences when referring to relationship quality. The reports of satisfaction, love, commitment, conflict, separation and communication are similar[24]. The process of commitment in a relationship is also similar among same-sex and different-sex relationships, both involve investment, satisfaction and perceived quality of relationships [24]. These core factors reflect societal expectations of relationships, how to achieve healthy, romantic commitment that looks the same to both heterosexual and queer people, even if the relationships are not. Not only that, but the separation of couples also follows similar trends. Relationships begin, develop and end without any notable differences. The differences lie within the structure of the relationships. Same-sex relationships are more likely to have an equal distribution of responsibilities, this could be financial, child-rearing or household duties, whereas heterosexual couples almost always have prevalent gendered roles[24]. This often involves a male breadwinner and a female homemaker. In relationships where it is not a man and a woman, the division of labour does not follow the gendered roles. There are also non-heterosexual partnerships where one partner is more masculine and the other is more feminine where heterosexual gender roles are applied similarly. For example, the terms butch and femme are coined by the lesbian community and refer to people who present themselves in a masculine (butch) and feminine (femme) way. Very often, people who identify as butch take on the masculine gender role of provider and protector, whereas the femme takes on the feminine role of nurturer and carer. These masculine and feminine dynamics reflect that of hetero-normative gender roles, which often involve society pushing the gender roles onto the partners. This happens frequently with questions such as “Who’s the man in the relationship?” which is often asked to lesbian couples where there is a clear difference in gender performativity[26]. The same can be said for gay couples where one of the men presents as masculine and the other presents as feminine. Another important topic among heterosexual and queer partnerships is children. The idea of parenthood looks very different for queer couples compared to heterosexual couples. Having a child as a queer couple could involve adoption, surrogacy, IVF, and more costly and lengthy processes[27]. Parenting is extremely gendered in our society, there is a mother and a father each of which provides the child with different guidance, such as a mother teaches kindness and love and the father teaches strength and assertiveness. In queer partnerships, these roles are not as explicit and queer parents are often questioned on their qualifications of being parents. The argument is often posed that a child needs both a mother and father or because of biological limitations, the child is not seen as actually being a legitimate child to the queer parents[27]. All in all, gender roles based on hetero-normative and mono-normative relationships are extremely prevalent in queer relationships.

[28]Documentation of a gay, plural partnership transitioning into parenthood

Plural marriages have been a long-standing part of history, they have taken many unique forms and continue to change and adapt. Common forms of non-monogamous relationships such as open relationships, polyamory and swinging emerged in the mid-20th century and have carried on ever since. Non-monogamy has become increasingly common, especially among the queer community[23]. Oftentimes, queer couples are more open to the idea of non-monogamous relationships in comparison to heterosexual couples[24]. In Western society, however, plural and polyamorous relationships are not often seen as valid partnerships among multiple people. It is often hard for people looking through a hetero-normative, mono-normative view to comprehend how non-monogamous queer relationships hold the same value as heterosexual, monogamous marriages. Since many places do not recognize plural marriages as legal, other methods of long-term commitment are assumed[29]. Gendered stereotypes are often imposed on people in non-monogamous relationships, which reflect hegemonic masculinity and emphasized femininity[22]. If a polyamorous relationship involves one masculine person and multiple feminine partners, that masculine partner is praised whereas the female partners could be seen as desperate or sexually immoral. Further gendered issues with non-monogamous relationships come with parenting, custody and childcare. Similarly to queer couples, the validity of plural parenthood is frequently questioned. Mono-normative views believe that multiple parents could confuse a child and they may not be raised as heterosexual, monogamous members of society. This goes to show how gender roles work to reinforce hetero-normativity not only of the current generation but the next as well.

Queer Marriage & Religion

The intersection of queer marriages and religion is a multifaceted terrain marked by tension, negotiation, and transformation. For centuries, religious institutions have held sway over societal norms and moral frameworks, often influencing perceptions and treatment of marginalized groups, including LGBTQ+ individuals. In recent years, as attitudes towards queer identities have evolved, so too have discussions surrounding marriage equality within religious communities. This essay delves into the complexities of navigating queer marriages within religious contexts, examining the challenges, progress, and potential for reconciliation between LGBTQ+ rights and religious beliefs, with some bible verses even saying that (“What does the Bible say about gay marriage?”) the Bible condemns homosexuality as an immoral and unnatural sin. Leviticus 18:22 identifies homosexual sex as an abomination, a detestable sin. Romans 1:26–27 declares homosexual desires and actions to be “shameful” and “unnatural.” First Corinthians 6:9 states that homosexuals are “wrongdoers” who will not inherit the kingdom of God. Since homosexuality is condemned in the Bible, it follows that homosexuals marrying is not God’s will and would be, in fact, sinful.[30]

Throughout history, many religious traditions have espoused heteronormative views on marriage, rooted in interpretations of sacred texts and teachings. For example, in Christianity, traditional interpretations of biblical passages have been used to condemn same-sex relationships and marriages. (American Baptist Churches USA, 2016) Who submit to the teaching of Scripture that God's design for sexual intimacy places it within the context of marriage between one man and one woman, and acknowledge that the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Biblical teaching.[31] Similar attitudes can be found in other faiths, such as Islam and Judaism, where heterosexuality is often considered the normative framework for marital unions. Being part of the LGBTQ+ community interpreted by biblical teachings is very frowned upon, with many being an outcast and fallen to a victim of hate crime.

In recent years, the discourse surrounding queer marriages has undergone significant evolution, challenging traditional notions of marriage and family within religious contexts. Anthropology offers a unique lens through which to explore the intersection of queer identities and religious beliefs, highlighting the diverse ways in which individuals negotiate their identities within these frameworks. Examining the complexities of queer marriages within various religious contexts, exploring the ways in which individuals navigate their religious beliefs and queer identities in the pursuit of love, commitment, and social recognition. (Zeweri, 2023) Not only as harmful to those who would be married but as a threat to the moral sanctity of marriage, childhood, and Australian social and cultural values.[32] Forced marriages within religious contexts present a stark contrast to the agency and autonomy sought by queer individuals in their pursuit of love and commitment. In some religious communities, adherence to traditional beliefs and patriarchal values can lead to the coercion of LGBTQ+ individuals into marriages that conform to heterosexual and cisgender norms. These forced marriages often result from social pressure, familial expectations, and the desire to maintain religious and cultural traditions, effectively denying queer individuals the opportunity to authentically express their identities and form relationships based on mutual consent and respect. The intersection of queer identities and forced marriages underscores the ongoing struggle for LGBTQ+ rights within religious communities, highlighting the urgent need for greater awareness, advocacy, and support for those facing coercion and discrimination.

Within Islam, attitudes toward queer marriages vary depending on cultural and theological interpretations. While some Muslim-majority countries recognize same-sex relationships, others criminalize homosexuality under Sharia law. Within Muslim communities in the West, LGBTQ+-affirming mosques and organizations provide spaces for queer Muslims to reconcile their identities with their faith, often performing same-sex marriage ceremonies in accordance with Islamic principles of justice and compassion. (“Third Committee Condemns Brutal Bombing of Gaza Hospital, Enforced Displacement of Palestinian Civilians, Emphasizes Urgent Need for Unimpeded Humanitarian Aid | Meetings Coverage and Press Releases”) Simultaneously condemning Palestinians—and Middle Easterners more broadly—as regressive homophobes: using “homophobia” to justify the killings, occupation, and displacement of Palestinians (weaponization of homophobia)[33]

Queer couples seeking to marry within religious contexts often encounter significant barriers and challenges. These may include outright rejection from religious institutions, condemnation from fellow believers, and legal restrictions in countries where religious laws influence civil marriage. Moreover, the stigma and discrimination faced by LGBTQ+ individuals within religious communities can lead to internalized shame and psychological distress, exacerbating the already daunting task of navigating a marginalized identity.

Despite these challenges, progress has been made in recent years towards greater acceptance of queer marriages within some religious denominations. For example, several mainstream Protestant denominations, including the Episcopal Church and the United Church of Christ, have embraced marriage equality and perform same-sex weddings. Likewise, some Jewish and Buddhist communities have adopted inclusive policies towards LGBTQ+ members. However, progress is not universal, and many religious institutions continue to resist the recognition of queer marriages. Conservative factions within Christianity, Islam, and Judaism, among others, maintain staunch opposition to same-sex unions, citing religious doctrines and moral convictions.  This resistance often leads to internal schisms within religious communities, as progressive factions advocate for greater inclusivity and reinterpretation of sacred texts. (Marriage in islam) Marriage is a socially sanctioned union, typically of one man and one woman, in this connection called husband and wife. Typically they form a family, socially, through forming a household, which is often subsequently extended biologically, through children. It is found in all societies, but in widely varying forms.[34]

Amidst these tensions, efforts towards reconciliation and dialogue are crucial in bridging the gap between LGBTQ+ rights and religious beliefs. Interfaith initiatives, such as LGBTQ+ affirming religious coalitions and dialogue forums, provide spaces for constructive engagement and mutual understanding. These platforms facilitate conversations around theology, ethics, and personal narratives, fostering empathy and solidarity across religious and queer identities. Furthermore, theological scholarship plays a vital role in reexamining traditional interpretations of religious texts in light of contemporary understandings of sexuality and gender. (Walter, 2009) There are few biblical verses that address homosexuality at all, and most of those are not directed at homosexuality per se. Opponents of same-sex marriage routinely cite seven verses in the Christian Bible as condemning homosexuality and calling it a sin. But when taken in context, these lessons speak not against homosexuality itself, but rather against rape, child molestation, bestiality, and other practices that hurt others and compromise a person’s relationship with God.[35] Queer theologians and religious scholars offer alternative readings of scripture, challenging heteronormative assumptions and advocating for the inherent dignity and worth of LGBTQ+ individuals. By engaging in theological dialogue grounded in compassion and intellectual rigor, religious communities can evolve towards more inclusive and affirming stances on queer marriages.

The legal landscape surrounding queer marriages intersects with religious beliefs in complex ways, particularly in countries where civil and religious institutions are intertwined. Debates over marriage equality often involve clashes between secular principles of equality and religious freedom. While some jurisdictions have legalized same-sex marriage and enacted anti-discrimination laws to protect LGBTQ+ rights, others maintain legal barriers and exemptions for religious institutions, allowing them to opt-out of providing services to queer couples based on religious beliefs. Moreover, social attitudes towards queer marriages within religious communities are influenced by broader cultural shifts and generational dynamics. Younger generations, including many Millennials and Generation Z individuals, tend to be more accepting of LGBTQ+ rights and marriage equality, even within traditionally conservative religious contexts. This generational divide underscores the evolving nature of religious beliefs and the potential for progressive change within religious institutions over time.

The intersection of queer marriages and religion represents a complex and evolving terrain, marked by tension, progress, and resistance. While many religious traditions have historically opposed same-sex unions, there is growing momentum towards greater acceptance and inclusion within some denominations. Efforts towards reconciliation and dialogue are essential in navigating the challenges posed by religious teachings and societal attitudes towards LGBTQ+ individuals. Ultimately, the journey towards full recognition and affirmation of queer marriages within religious contexts requires a commitment to justice, empathy, and theological inquiry. By engaging in respectful dialogue, challenging discriminatory practices, and advocating for LGBTQ+ rights, religious communities can move closer towards embracing the sacred worth of all individuals, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.


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