Lavender marriage is a term coined to describe a marriage between a man and a woman in which one, or both, parties are homosexual. Usually, but not always, both parties are assumed to be complicit in a public deception to hide their homosexuality. If one party is straight, they are referred to as the beard.
Although there have been a number of prominent lavender marriages in history, the phrase itself came into colloquial use during the 1920s, when the imposition of morality clauses into the contracts of Hollywood actors caused some homosexual stars to enter into marriages of convenience to protect their public reputations, and preserve their careers. The destruction of the career of MGM actor William Haines, who refused to end his relationship with his male partner Jimmy Shields, and enter into a marriage at MGM's discretion, was said to have caused a spate of couples to seek refuge in marriage.
While the term has passed from modern usage, rumors that the practice still occurs to protect careers continue to surround some high profile celebrity couples.
Among the couples and individuals who have been reported or rumored to have entered "lavender marriages" are:
- Rock Hudson, who under movie studio pressure, and worried about rumors that Confidential magazine was planning to expose his homosexuality, married Phyllis Gates, a young woman who worked in the film studio.
- Boston marriage
- Doom Book
- Hollywood marriage
- Mariage blanc, an asexual marriage undertaken for the protection of one party
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