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This article examines contemporary struggles over same-sex marriage in the daily lives of black lesbian- and gay-identified South Africans. Based primarily on 21 in-depth interviews with such South Africans drawn from a larger project on post-apartheid South African marriage, the author argues that their current struggles for relationship recognition share much in common with contemporaneous struggles of their heterosexual counterparts, and that these commonalities reflect ongoing tensions between more extended-family and more dyadic understandings of African marriage. The increasing influence of dyadic understandings of marriage, and of associated ideals of romantic love, has helped inspire same-sex marriage claims and, in many cases, facilitate their acceptance. At the same time, continuing contestation over such understandings helps drive instances of opposition.


This article has been accepted for publication in Sexualities, published by Sage. The final, published version is available at My other publications are indexed on ORCID at


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