Invisibility, Illegibility, and Stigma: The Citizenship Experiences of Divorced Gays and Lesbians

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Sociology and Corrections


The campaign for marriage equality emphasized that without access to legal marriage, gays and lesbians were relegated to “second-class citizenship.” Following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges (2015), gays and lesbians find that marrying can lead to greater acceptance and support from family, friends, and colleagues, suggesting that marriage helps gays and lesbians achieve citizenship, defined in terms of belonging and inclusion. However, it remains unclear whether such acceptance and support then disappears or diminishes after divorce. In this article, the informal social consequences associated with same-sex divorce were explored by drawing on in-depth interviews with a small convenience sample of recently divorced gays and lesbians. Results indicate that same-sex divorce is largely invisible, which leads divorced gays and lesbians to worry that their life circumstances will make them illegible to others. In turn, some also withdraw from social interaction, and others report experiencing stigma.

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Journal of Divorce and Remarriage