Dionne Louise Steven


In this paper I fashion an understanding of the relatively recent phenomenon of same-sex civil unions in Aotearoa/New Zealand. Drawing on fieldwork, I explore the contours of 30 couples’ civil union ceremonies. I argue that civil unions as cultural performances can be defined as reflexive and biographical representations that for many couples were shaped by a historic dialectic based on exclusion. In constructing their ceremonies, couples, in varying degrees, drew on both queer and heteronormative meaning-constitutive practices but also felt free to introduce elements of a more innovative nature. The gravity of the occasion, the affective nature of ritual, and the socio-historical significance of same-sex civil unions combined to make most couples’ civil union a highly emotional and meaningful experience. The transformative effects of “ritual” were, however, by no means limited to the couple. Often the most profound outcome of couples’ civil unions was the positive shifts that occurred with family of origin.


same-sex civil unions/marriage

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.11157/sites-vol11iss1id249