What Gay Marriage Teaches About the History of Marriage

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Hendrik Hartog is Class of 1921 Bicentennial Professor in the History of American Law and Liberty at Princeton University and the author of MAN AND WIFE IN AMERICA: A HISTORY.


In the past few years, however, as issues relating to same-sex marriage have bubbled along — in Hawaii, Vermont, Canada, Massachusetts, San Francisco, and, of course, in the nation’s capital — I have come to realize how wrong I was to demarcate a sharp split between the compulsory heterosexual marital practices characteristic of the nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries and the world of marital expectations and practices that define us in the early twenty-first century.

She plays o' the viol-de-gamboys, speaks three or four languages word for word without book, hath all the good gifts of nature, knows a hawk from a handsaw, and can see a church by daylight. The rest is subject to fancy.