Marriage has been traditionally a manner of regulating the relationships between men and women in the Canadian society. As same-sex relationships became more acceptable throughout the Western world, Canada sought to be perceived as one of the most tolerant countries in the world by allowing same-sex marriage in the name of equality. Same-sex marriage refers to gay couples’ right to wed and to take advantage of the social and legal benefits which come from this union. Same sex marriage is legal in Canada since 2005 and gay couples sometimes perceive the right to get married as a very important achievement particularly because it helps them to enter the mainstream and stop feeling different. However, in his article, Mulé (2010) presents same-sex marriage as a way of regulating or limiting the shape of the family, and of further imposing the heteronormative discourse, as it has always done.
Same-sex marriage has been saluted as a step forward towards the elimination of discrimination against the gay population. However, critics now regard it as a way of encouraging homosexual couples to adopt a heterosexually-based type of relationship, which means, to enter an institution designed to establish and perpetuate feminine and masculine gender roles within the family. In this respect, Mulé explains that “same-sex marriage contributes to a heteronormative discourse, which impacts on gay male identity that is queer-based and distinguished from the heteronormative male (Mulé, 2010, p.78).Therefore, by encouraging gay couples to adopt a heterosexual type of relationship, namely marriage, it limits these people’s choices of a different type of union, based on their own gender identity. This kind of legislation ignores the many different types of families that may be formed, and which constitute a very large proportion of the Canadian society and continues to impose the traditional patriarchal and heterosexual family design of the marriage relationship.
This is a manner of assimilating a group of previously marginalized couples, by allowing them to gain the advantages of a favored majority. Many other types of families currently exist in Canada, but they are considered exceptions from the rule (Mulé 2010, p.80). People who favor such families are constantly persuaded to step away from the “abnormal” family type and join a form of marriage instead. Therefore, it encourages gay people who had a queer-based relationship, based on a separate gender identity, to get as closer as possible to the traditional type of family. Mulé (2010, p.79) explained that gay couples feel that they become more respectable upon getting married as if they were allowed access into an elitist club or institution which had been previously beyond their reach. Instead of pushing them to embrace marriage, attempts should be made to create new concepts that embrace the different types of relationships which exist in Canada ( Mulé 2010, p.80).
Thus, instead of shaking the traditional separation of genders and the patriarchal basis of marriage, same-sex marriage may reinforce it by encouraging gay people to get as close to this imposed model as possible, and to try to imitate the traditional gender identities and gender role. In most traditional families, a male figure, or a ‘patriarch’ assumes the role of head of family, while a feminine figure usually assumes the role of nurturer and homemaker. This idealization of the traditional gender roles through marriage, and through the availability and celebration of same-sex marriage represents a slowing down of the progress made by mankind in understanding and recognizing the rights and freedoms of sexual minorities, although it appears to represent the opposite.
Mulé, N. (2010). Same-sex marriage and Canadian relationship recognition—one step forward, two steps back: a critical liberationist perspective. Journal of Gay and Lesbian Social Services 22, 74-90.