Publication Date


Document Type

Masters Thesis


School for Social Work


Marriage law-United States-History, Same-sex marriage-Law and legislation-United States, Interracial marriage-Law and legislation-United States, Miscegenation-United States, Marriage-United States, Same-sex marriage, Interracial marriage, Miscegenation, Marriage


This study tracks the ways that the regulation of marriage in the United States has been used to oppress populations and protect privilege, specifically focusing on racial and heterosexual privilege. Looking at the intersection of oppression with marriage law in the United States, the more specific concepts of othering, marginalization, and institutional discrimination are addressed. The United States had laws prohibiting interracial marriage in place from 1630 until these laws were declared unconstitutional by the US Supreme Court in 1967. Miscegenation laws were used to target and punish individuals engaging in relationships that threatened the social order. The exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage reinforces the image of the homosexual as an outsider, drawing upon a long history of marginalization and othering. Samesex couples denied the right to legally marry face denial of inheritance of property and wealth, denial of hospital visitation rights, limits to adopting or gaining custody of children, as well as roughly 1,135 other rights afforded to heterosexual married couples. Examining the implication of marital law in civil rights infringements and broader social oppression from a historical perspective changes the way we must frame the current discussion around same-sex marriage and marriage in general. The implications for professional Social Work are addressed.




iii, 52 p. Thesis (M.S.W.)-Smith College School for Social Work, Northampton, Mass., 2011. Includes bibliographical references (p. [46]-52)