Dr Frances Hamilton

The Evolving Nature of Marriage: Evolving to Irrelevancy or Evidence of Strength and Durability


Marriage is often viewed as an ‘institution’ interwoven with history, tradition, and patriarchy. However, it is not ‘fixed and immutable’ and has in fact greatly evolved. On an international basis changes in the last century include inter-racial marriage (although never banned in the UK), allowing married women an independent legal status and the gradual dismantling of coverture rules, recognition of same-sex marriage and allowing transperson marriage in their affirmed gender (subject to conditions of the Gender Recognition Act 2004). More recently no-fault divorce will increase individual opportunities to re-marry. Together with high divorce rates, the increasing average age of marriage, rise of the alternative status of civil partnerships and the acceptance of cohabitation it can be argued that marriage is becoming irrelevant. This raises the question of why anyone would wish to marry and debate rages about the legal benefits and disadvantages of marriage. Some feminists oppose marriage as ‘at best problematic for, and at worst deeply oppressive to, women as a class’ and queer theorists consider that it conflicts with goals of queer sexual liberation. In contrast this author inspired by critical legal theory, understood here as a desire to ‘create a more humane, egalitarian and democratic society’ argues that expanding the capacity to marry allows greater choice for those wishing to marry. Consequently demonstrating the strength and durability of marriage as an evolving institution and allowing future change.


Dr Frances Hamilton was appointed Associate Professor at the University of Reading Law School in January 2021. Her research interests are broadly in the area of Gender Sexuality and the Law and her published work investigates the role of the European Court of Human Rights and the Court of Justice of the European Union in recognising same-sex marriage. The international profile of Frances’ work is demonstrated as she has published in the UK, Italy, Florida, California and New York with high quality publishers such as Routledge, and international
multiple peer-reviewed journals including the Journal of Homosexuality, the European Human Rights Law Review and the Journal of Transnational Law. Her recently published edited collection (as lead editor) entitled ‘Same-Sex Relationships, Law and Social Change’ published in January 2020 by Routledge in London and New York includes contributions from an international team of leading Law and Sociology authors from 5 different jurisdictions (the UK, Canada, Australia, Italy and the Republic of Ireland.) Following invitation, Frances hasbeen appointed as Visiting Scholar at Pisa University Italy in 2022.