Marriage of Convenience

Lavender marriage

A marriage of convenience (plural marriages of convenience) is a marriage contracted for reasons other than the reasons of relationship, family, or love. Instead, such a marriage is orchestrated for personal gain or some other sort of strategic purpose, such as political marriage.

In the cases when it represents a fraud, it is called ‘sham marriage.’ Marriages of convenience are often contracted to exploit legal loopholes of various sorts. A couple may wed for reasons of citizenship or right of abode, for example, as many countries around the world will grant such rights to any wedded resident.

Another common reason for marriages of convenience is to hide one partner’s homosexuality in cases where being openly gay is punishable or potentially detrimental. A sham marriage of this type, known as the lavender marriage, may thus create the appearance of heterosexuality. Such marriages may have one heterosexual and one gay partner, or two gay partners: a lesbian and a gay man married to each other. In the case where a gay man marries a woman, the woman is said to be his ‘beard.’

The phrase ‘marriage of convenience’ has also been generalized to mean any partnership between groups or individuals for their mutual (and sometimes illegitimate) benefit, or between groups or individuals otherwise unsuited to working together. An example would be a ‘National Unity Government,’ as existed in Israel during much of the 1980s or in WWII Great Britain. More specifically, cohabitation refers to a political situation which can occur in countries with a semi-presidential system (especially France), where the president and the prime minister belong to opposed political camps.

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