Date of Award




Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Department of Political Science

Content Description

1 online resource (viii, 327 pages) : illustrations

Dissertation/Thesis Chair

Julie Novkov

Committee Members

Patricia Strach, Kathleen Sullivan


American Political Development, Family, Marriage, States, State courts, Marriage law, Domestic relations, Same-sex marriage, Divorce

Subject Categories

Law | Political Science


The goal of this dissertation was to explore the internal problem solving nature of state courts and thus produce a narrative about court-created legal development. By examining four policy areas related to marriage: divorce/annulment, alimony, adoption/custody and loss of consortium, I show the courts turn to performance as a way to adjudicate questions from individuals and couples operating at the margins of marriage, couples who do not live to the marriage ideal or more broadly the breakdown in the marriage ideal. Through an analysis of four unique policy areas I offer conclusions in this dissertation as to why performance matters and in turn present an analysis that accounts for judicial decision-making around same-sex marriage. Focusing on the internal developmental dynamics of these four policy areas I demonstrate courts use performance as a mechanism to extend marital benefits and burdens to individuals and couples that were not formally married. As such, this dissertation adds to the scholarship around same-sex marriage illustrating these decisions were not breaks with traditional narratives but instead part of the narrative preserving institutions and institutional commitments.