4 J.L. & Equal. 117 (2005)
Heteronormativity, Equality, and the Family: Beyond the Freedom to Marry

handle is hein.journals/jleq4 and id is 119 raw text is: Heteronormativity, Equality, and the Family:
Beyond the Freedom to Marry
Kathleen Lahey*
In trying to think about how concepts of equality might shape family law
in the future and to identify what inequalities remain, it is important to
remember that family law as we know it today in Canada continues to be
profoundly    shaped    by   its  now-obscure     origins  in   centuries-old
appropriative, hetero/sexist, racist, and hierarchical family norms.' So
long as the assumptions and stereotypes underpinning these policies
remain unexamined and unchallenged, constitutional equality guarantees
can only go part of the way in solving the long-standing problems
generated by heteronormativity in family law.
These assumptions include the belief that women's work has less value
than that of men; that women should prioritize physical reproduction and
home-centred work over waged work; that the best family structure is a
single-income family with a stay-at-home carer; that women who work for
wages should be prepared to substitute domestic work where needed; that
lesbian, gay, and     other queer     relationships have    less value; that
parenthood should be defined by biology; and that people in need should
be supported by their families, not through social assistance.
The attempt to bring equality principles to bear on the manifestations
of these assumptions and stereotypes in family law has been particularly
challenging because the 'family unit' actually encompasses multiple and
competing frames of reference. Inter-family comparisons look at how
different types of family units are treated in comparison with each other,
as in the comparison between same-sex couples versus opposite-sex couples
Professor, Queen's University.
For example, property, inheritance, and tax laws in the Roman Empire were initially
enacted to place pressure on women to marry and to have children, and on men to leave
most of their property not to their male lovers, but to their children. These laws provided
for confiscation of property, imposition of heavy taxes, and outright disinheritance of
women who did not have the requisite number of children. Estate taxes were first used to
confiscate bequests that did not go to men's children but went to their male lovers. By the
fifth century B.C.E., the moralism that drove the creation of these heteronormative laws
resulted in the merger of early Christian canon law with state law, and the criminalization
of non-Christian culture, non-reproductive sex, and sodomy. See generally Kathleen A.
Lahey, Are we 'Persons' Yet? Law and Sexuality in Canada (Toronto: University of Toronto
Press, 1999) c. 4 ILahey, Personsl.

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