A Parent(ly) Knot: Can Heather Have Two Mommies?

Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date


Source Publication

Having and Raising Children: Unconventional Families, Hard Choices and the Social Good. Pittsburgh: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1999.


children; law; lesbian parents


Within feminist theorizing, the concept of familial ideology has played an important role. At a basic level, it refers to the ways in which the dominant form of family-the nuclear heterosexual unit-is rendered natural, inevitable, and ideal. Shelley A. M. Gavigan, in this essay, uses the concept to think about legal battles between lesbian mothers. Her interest is in exploring how familial ideology plays out in these conflicts: Who resorts to furthering it and why? Do custody and access fights between lesbian co-parents entrench or undermine dominant notions of family? Ultimately, Gavigan problematizes traditional (within lesbian and£lay theorizing) understandings of judges as homophobic and argues that familial ideology informs and shapes the positions of both mothers, long before they come to court.


Article first published in: Legal Inversions: Lesbians, Gay Men and the Politics of the Law. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press, 1995.

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