Sociology, Department of


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Published in Sexuality Research and Social Policy 8:3 (2011), pp. 192–203; doi: 10.1007/s13178-011-0051-4 Copyright © 2011 Springer Science + Business Media, LLC. Used by permission.


Previous research suggests that gays and lesbians not only look to the law as an important site of social recognition but also pursue strategies to legitimate their relationships outside of the law, such as having commitment ceremonies in religious institutions. While previous research suggests that homosexuality is a divisive issue within religious communities, we know little about how heterosexual religious people understand same-sex marriage. I aim to fill this gap and analyze the rights consciousness of heterosexual members in liberal religious denominations. Drawing on in-depth interviews, I examine how people make sense of the relationship between law and social change. While all interviewees support same-sex marriage, they express a contradictory understanding of how it should become legal in the USA. I analyze how they reconcile this contradiction within the context of their religious institutions.

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