Lavender marriage is the popular term used to describe a male-female marriage in which one or both of the partners was homosexual–or possibly bisexual. The more general term is mixed-orientation marriage.
The partners in a lavender marriage were concealing the fact that the sexual orientation of at least one of them was not primarily heterosexual. Thus, at least one of the partners acts as a Beard.
The term lavender marriage dates from the early twentieth century and is used almost exclusively to characterize certain marriages of public celebrities in the first half of the twentieth century, primarily before World War II. At the time, public attitudes toward homosexuality made it impossible for a person to pursue a public career, notably in the Hollywood film industry, while acknowledging homosexuality. One of the earliest uses of the phrase appeared in the British press in 1895, back when lavender was associated with homosexuality.
The 1923 marriage of Rudolph Valentino with lesbian costume and set designer Natacha Rambova, disguising her relationship with actress Alla Nazimova.
Actor Rock Hudson, troubled by rumors that Confidential magazine was planning to expose his homosexuality, married Phyllis Gates, a young woman employed by his agent, in 1955.
Swedish Hollywood actor Nils Asther and vaudeville entertainer Vivian Duncan had a brief marriage of convenience that resulted in one child. Nils Asther was a well known homosexual who had a relationship with actor/stuntman Kenneth DuMain.