Why Marriage?

34 Pages Posted: 4 Jun 2012 Last revised: 22 Jun 2012

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: 2001


The institution of marriage has traditionally served as the societal mechanism for providing economic benefits and protection. This Article explores the institution of marriage and its wide-ranging meanings, functions, and purposes before rejecting it as a necessary institution to accomplish societal objectives. Instead, the Article embraces the notion of family as the critical social category and explores why public policy should focus on strengthening the caretaker-dependent relationship as the core family connection through which the law should bestow special protection and benefits. Although changing marriage patterns and societal norms over the course of the twentieth century have transformed the relationship between husbands and wives into a regime of marital partnership, motherhood continues to pose dilemmas within the family because women bear the brunt of caring for children and other dependents. The Article rejects the historical vision of marriage as the repository for dependencies and proposes a rethinking of the position assigned to the family in larger society that incorporates implications of the changed family form and essential family function.

Keywords: marriage, same-sex marriage, family, marital family, marital privacy, privacy, dependency, dependent, caretaker, vulnerability, gender, feminist, feminism, family law, public sphere, private sphere, divorce, welfare, motherhood, Bartlett, contract, sexual affiliate, paternalism, maternalism

Suggested Citation

Fineman, Martha Albertson, Why Marriage? (2001). Virginia Journal of Social Policy and the Law, Vol. 9, No. 1, p. 240, 2001, Emory Legal Studies Research Paper No. 12-204, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2075914

Martha Albertson Fineman (Contact Author)

Emory University School of Law ( email )

1301 Clifton Road
Atlanta, GA 30322
United States
404-712-2421 (Phone)

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