Law Reform, Lesbian Parenting, and the Reflective Claim

(2011) 20 Social & Legal Studies 331-348

32 Pages Posted: 25 Nov 2012 Last revised: 13 Oct 2016

See all articles by Robert Leckey

Robert Leckey

McGill University - Faculty of Law

Date Written: 2011


The article aims to complicate efforts to make law fit or catch up to social practices. It scrutinizes the ‘reflective claim’ using the case study of recognition of parenting by lesbian couples. Reforms in the United Kingdom’s Human Embryology and Fertilisation Act 2008 and the Canadian province of Quebec’s civil code are compared with empirical work from the social sciences on lesbians’ family practices. The reflective claim rests on problematic ideas about social practices and law. Since law is always blunt and incomplete, choices must be made as to which practices it should aim to recognize. Furthermore, the impact of heterosexist and homophobic conditions on lesbian families means that observable practices may not be a suitable model for gay-affirmative reforms. As advanced in the literature, the reflective claim overlooks law and society’s complex interaction, including how reform will not merely reflect but also alter practices. It fails to do justice to law reform’s normative character, obscuring its costs and positive potential.

Keywords: empirical research, Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008, law reform, lesbian mothers, Quebec civil law

JEL Classification: K19

Suggested Citation

Leckey, Robert, Law Reform, Lesbian Parenting, and the Reflective Claim (2011). (2011) 20 Social & Legal Studies 331-348. Available at SSRN:

Robert Leckey (Contact Author)

McGill University - Faculty of Law ( email )

3644 Peel Street
Montreal H3A 1W9, Quebec
514-398-4148 (Phone)
514-398-4659 (Fax)

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