Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Title

Family Law in the World Community, 2d ed.

Publication Date



Family law continues to evolve rapidly. Past orthodoxies become unsustainable, while new norms and values are ushered in.

John Murphy, The Recognition of Same-Sex Families in

Britain: The Role of Private International Law,

16 Int’l J. L. Pol. & Fam. 181, 185 (2002)

Perhaps nowhere in family law is this evolution more dramatic than in the burgeoning recognition of rights of same-sex couples. Within the past twenty years courts, legislatures, and international bodies have addressed the extent to which rights and obligations formerly reserved to heterosexual married spouses should be conferred on other partners.

Most western democracies now recognize same-sex unions, assuring the partners in such unions a range of rights and benefits, similar to but distinct from the rights and benefits enjoyed by married couples. Part A of this Chapter describes the legal mechanisms which recognize and protect same-sex unions, some of which are also open to heterosexual couples. Part B focuses on the still-small minority of states that have opened civil marriage to same-sex couples. Part C considers the growing reliance on human rights instruments to expand the rights of same-sex couples, and the promulgation of new instruments, including the Yogyakarta Principles on the Application of International Human Rights Law in relation to Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity.


This chapter is Chapter 4 from Family Law in the World Community, 2d ed.



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.