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“It’s made a huge difference” : recognition, rights and the personal significance of Civil Partnership\ud

By B. Shipman and C.C. Smart


In this paper we map briefly some of the arguments around the meaning and significance of the introduction of Civil Partnership in England and Wales, and in this way show how contested these meanings are. We then turn to our empirical data to explore the extent to which these arguments and issues are part of the everyday decision making processes of same sex couples who have decided to register their partnerships or to undergo a commitment ceremony of some kind. In doing this, we were interested in how people make their own meanings (if they do) and whether they actually frame important decisions in their lives around the ideas that are part of the current political debates. We are interested in whether the public debates are featured in the accounts of our interviewees but our concern is also that these broader political debates appear to offer two alternatives to same sex couples. In one scenario same sex couples appear to be striking a blow for equality and are cultural heroes, in the other they appear as cultural dupes who are unintentionally falling into a government trap to de-radicalise their relationships and defuse the possibility of a queer alternative to heteronormativity. Our data give some insight into how same sex couples negotiate these alternatives and may, in fact, circumnavigate them

Publisher: Sociological Research Online
Year: 2007
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