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The Lesbian Wife: Same-Sex Marriage as an Expression of Radical and Plural Democracy
Faculty Scholarship
  • Barbara Cox, California Western School of Law
Document Type
Publication Date
This Paper considers three ideas. The first is recognizing that a "reactionary and exclusionary democracy" exists in this country today. The second is considering the argument by some gay and lesbian activists that including gay men and lesbians under the rubric of state-sanctioned marriage will actually prevent a "radical and plural democracy" from occurring by removing the "outlaw" nature of the queer community and leading to the wholesale movement of gays and lesbians from the "anti-subordination project" into the mainstream middle-class. The third argues that, despite this concern, the gay and lesbian community can help move the country toward a progressive, pluralistic democracy by embracing the radical notion of redefining the family. Redefinition is a way to displace "compulsory heterosexuality" from its location as the main state-recognized family in the country. In order to do that, however, it will be necessary to forge, as Chantal Mouffe argues, "a chain of equivalences between all the democratic demands to produce the collective will of all those people struggling against subordination." Without the help of others working against subordination, the Right will be successful in its attempt to "redefine democracy in a restrictive way to reduce its subversive power." With a group as misunderstood and despised as gay men and lesbians, we will need the help of all people struggling against subordination to radicalize family and citizenship enough to include married gay men and lesbians.
Citation Information
Cox, The Lesbian Wife: Same-Sex Marriage as an Expression of Radical and Plural Democracy, in Symposium Issue on “Towards a Radical and Plural Democracy,” 33 Cal. W. L. Rev. 155 (1997).