Quod non est in actis non est in Mundo : legal words, unspeakability and the same-sex marriage issue
Faculty of Law
Law and critique. - Liverpool
, p. 65-81
University of Antwerp
This article centres on the legal recognition of same-sex marriage with a view to exploring the issue of unspeakability; that is, the condition whereby some questions cannot be articulated because of a lack of words. More specifically, the article will explore what happens to those social practices that are not given legal speakability and thereby legal recognition/protection. To this end, I first focus on how words are produced in the sphere of everyday life and their dependence on the existence of a widespread normality. I then discuss how the law sees to the preservation and the reproduction of normality by providing a set of categories which are made available to law-abiders to settle disputes when they arise. In doing so, I elucidate the twofold role played by law as both a selective and a creative device. To cast some light on the particular way law operates, I discuss an important decision by the Italian Constitutional Court in 2010, which provides a telling example of how legal officials are able to seal off the set of legal categories and to leave some issues in the sphere of the unspeakable. I then unearth a paradox: while unspeakability reveals a condition of powerlessness, the acquisition of speakability could bring about even harsher exclusionary effects. I conclude by arguing that the entry into the sphere of official law is always a Janus-faced achievement, but can play as an effective instrument of critique.