Love-Politics: Lesbian Wedding Practices in Canada and the United States from the 1920s to the 1970s

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Scholarly level: 
Final version published as: 

Chenier, Elise. "Love-Politics: Lesbian Wedding Practices in Canada and the United States from the 1920s to the 1970s," Journal of the History of Sexuality, Vol. 27, No. 2, May 2018.

Date created: 
Same-sex marriage
Lesbian and gay history
History of sexuality

Lesbians have organized and participated in same-sex wedding ceremonies since the 1950s, but never without controversy, and the controversies have been as much among lesbians and gays themselves as between those opposed to homosexuality and those in favor of sexual rights. This article examines lesbian weddings in the United States and Canada in the 1950s, ’60s, and ’70s to consider the meaning of such ceremonies in the social, political, and temporal context in which they occurred. Building on Elizabeth Kennedy and Madeline Davis’ argument that butch and femme culture in the 1940s, 50s, and 60s was feminism in its pre-political stage, I argue that women of color and white women who in the 1970s campaigned for state recognition of their marriages represent one aspect of butch and femme culture in its political stage. Because these political demands stood in opposition to white feminists’ argument that marriage was an oppressive institution that should be abolished, this article invites us to question assumptions embedded in the analytical tools used by queer theorists and historians of sexuality, namely the emphasis on resistance against normativity as indicative of progressive politics.

Document type: 
Rights remain with the author.
Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC)