Queer and Religious Convergences Around Nonconjugal Couples: What Could Go Wrong?
N Palazzo, JA Redding, Queer and Religious Alliances in Family Law Politics and Beyond, Anthem Press, New York, 2022
31 Pages Posted: 28 May 2021 Last revised: 23 Jun 2022
Date Written: February 17, 2022
The potential for queer and religious groups to converge in family law regulation is fascinating. The ideal and more fertile terrain for convergence is one where such groups realize their shared interest in plural family values, and, especially, in recognizing families that live outside of the marital model. In practice, however, convergence has occurred on other grounds.
Several legal initiatives are instructive in this sense. In 2002, Christian movements in Alberta mobilized to enact a scheme open to any two people—including relatives and friends—and which was named the Adult Interdependent Relationship Act (AIRA). Social and religious conservatives in the UK also attempted to amend the Civil Partnership Act to include siblings and/or relatives, without succeeding. These groups’ mobilization was animated by a desire to harm same-sex couples—either by derailing their legal recognition or by diluting the symbolic value of their legal recognition through schemes open to a much wider array of (desexualized) relationships. The irony is, however, that similar initiatives are in tune with the queer ambition to legitimize families that do not align with the marital model of the family.
My intention is to explore the cases where conservative religious forces in Western jurisdictions have pushed for the recognition of non-conjugal families. I further assess whether these laws have contributed to debunk traditional notions of family.
Thus far, these experiences have been disappointing: they have not contributed to transforming family notions. I ferret out the rationales for this failed experiment. I group them around two reasons, namely the noxious aim backing these proposals and their continued focus on the marital family. I then argue that these shortcomings are no bar to future successful convergences. To the extent we live in a post-same-sex-marriage world, the driver behind these laws can be the promotion of plural family values (rather than animus towards same-sex couples). Second, their poor drafting can be remedied by more attentive drafting that avoids engrafting in the law the typical markers of the marital family (conjugality, exclusivity, etc.). This in-depth failure analysis will thus serve as a warning but also a stepping-stone to future friendships.
Keywords: queer, family, religious, non-conjugal, polyamory, polygamy, family law
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