The Power and Limits of Marriage: Married Gay Men's Family Relationships


  • This article was edited by David Demo.

Department of Sociology, University of Chicago, 1126 East 59th Street, Chicago, IL 60637 (


Same-sex marriage has received much scholarly attention in the United States in the past decade. Yet we know little about how same-sex couples experience marriage. In this article, I present findings from in-depth interviews with 32 legally married gay men in Iowa. I focus on their experiences with families of origin and investigate the legitimating potential of same-sex marriage. The men had high expectations about the power of marriage to help them gain recognition and support, but their experiences with family members were more varied and complex than they expected. Although marriage often led to positive family outcomes, it also commonly had negative consequences, including new and renewed experiences of family rejection. This study complicates ideas about the legitimating potential of marriage for same-sex couples by illuminating both its power and limits in helping gay men gain status and support from their families of origin.