The right of same-sex couples to marry provoked decades of intense conflict before it was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2015. Yet some of the most divisive contests shaping the quest for marriage equality occurred not on the culture-war front lines but within the ranks of LGBTQ advocates. Nathaniel Frank tells the dramatic story of how an idea that once seemed unfathomable—and for many gays and lesbians undesirable—became a legal and moral right in just half a century.
Awakening begins in the 1950s, when millions of gays and lesbians were afraid to come out, let alone fight for equality. Across the social upheavals of the next two decades, a gay rights movement emerged with the rising awareness of the equal dignity of same-sex love. A cadre of LGBTQ lawyers soon began to focus on legal recognition for same-sex couples, if not yet on marriage itself. It was only after being pushed by a small set of committed lawyers and grassroots activists that established movement groups created a successful strategy to win marriage in the courts.
Marriage equality proponents then had to win over members of their own LGBTQ community who declined to make marriage a priority, while seeking to rein in others who charged ahead heedless of their carefully laid plans. All the while, they had to fight against virulent antigay opponents and capture the American center by spreading the simple message that love is love, ultimately propelling the LGBTQ community—and America—immeasurably closer to justice.
In 2003 the US Supreme Court overturned anti-sodomy laws across the country, ruling in Lawrence v. Texas that the Constitution protects private consensual sex between adults. To some, the decision seemed to come like lightning from above, altering the landscape of America’s sexual politics all at once. In actuality, many years of work and organizing led up to the legal case, and the landmark ruling might never have happened were it not for the passionate struggle of Texans who rejected their state’s discriminatory laws.
Before Lawrence v. Texas tells the story of the long, troubled, and ultimately hopeful road to constitutional change. Wesley G. Phelps describes the achievements, setbacks, and unlikely alliances along the way. Over the course of decades, and at great risk to themselves, gay and lesbian Texans and their supporters launched political campaigns and legal challenges, laying the groundwork for Lawrence. Phelps shares the personal experiences of the people and couples who contributed to the legal strategy that ultimately overturned the state’s discriminatory law. Even when their individual court cases were unsuccessful, justice seekers and activists collectively influenced public opinion by insisting that their voices be heard. Nine Supreme Court justices ruled, but it was grassroots politics that vindicated the ideal of equality under the law.
Media and scholastic accounts describe a strong public opinion backlash—a sharply negative and enduring opinion change—against attempts to advance gay rights. Academic research, however, increasingly questions backlash as an explanation for opposition to LGBT rights. Elite-Led Mobilization and Gay Rights argues that what appears to be public opinion backlash against gay rights is more consistent with elite-led mobilization—a strategy used by anti-gay elites, primarily white evangelicals, seeking to prevent the full incorporation of LGBT Americans in the polity in order to achieve political objectives and increase political power. This book defines and tests the theory of Mass Opinion Backlash and develops and tests the theory of Elite-Led Mobilization by employing a series of online and natural experiments, surrounding the U.S. Supreme Court rulings in Obergefell v. Hodges and United States v. Windsor, and President Obama’s position change on gay marriage. To evaluate these theories, the authors employ extensive survey, voting behavior, and campaign finance data, and examine the history of the LGBT movement and its opposition by religious conservatives, from the Lavender Scare to the campaign against Trans Rights in the defeat of Houston’s 2015 HERO ordinance. Their evidence shows that opposition to LGBT rights is a top-down process incited by anti-gay elites rather than a bottom-up reaction described by public opinion backlash.
Conservative opponents of LGBT equality in the United States often couch their opposition in claims of free speech, free association, and religious liberty. It is no surprise, then, that many LGBT supporters equate First Amendment arguments with resistance to their cause. The First Amendment and LGBT Equality tells another story, about the First Amendment’s crucial yet largely forgotten role in the first few decades of the gay rights movement.
Between the 1950s and 1980s, when many courts were still openly hostile to sexual minorities, they nonetheless recognized the freedom of gay and lesbian people to express themselves and associate with one another. Successful First Amendment cases protected LGBT publications and organizations, protests and parades, and individuals’ right to come out. The amendment was wielded by the other side only after it had laid the groundwork for major LGBT equality victories.
Carlos A. Ball illuminates the full trajectory of this legal and cultural history. He argues that, in accommodating those who dissent from LGBT equality on grounds of conscience, it is neither necessary nor appropriate to depart from the established ways in which American antidiscrimination law has, for decades, accommodated equality dissenters. But he also argues that as progressives fight the First Amendment claims of religious conservatives and other LGBT opponents today, they should take care not to erode the very safeguards of liberty that allowed LGBT rights to exist in the first place.
The passage of the anti-gay marriage Proposition 8 in California in 2008 stunned gay rights activists across the country. Although facing a well-funded campaign in support of the ballot measure, LGBT activists had good reasons for optimism, including the size and strength of their campaign. Since 1974, the LGBT movement has fought 146 anti-gay ballot initiatives sponsored by the religious right and has developed innovative strategies to oppose these measures. In Gay Rights at the Ballot Box, Amy L. Stone examines how the tactics of LGBT activists have evolved and unravels the complex relationship between ballot measure campaigns and the broader goals of the LGBT movement.
The first comprehensive history of anti-gay ballot measures, both those merely attempted and those successfully put before voters, this book draws on archival research and interviews with more than one hundred LGBT activists to provide a detailed account of the campaigns to stop such ballot measures from passing into law. As Stone shows through in-depth case studies, although LGBT activists lost the vast majority of these fights, they also won significant statewide victories in Oregon in 1992 and Arizona in 2006, and local successes, including ones in Ypsilanti, Michigan, in 1998 and 2002.
Stone analyzes how LGBT activists constantly refined their campaign tactics in response to both victories and defeats. She also stresses that such campaigns have played both a complementary and contradictory role within the LGBT movement. Specific anti-ballot campaigns and the broader movement do often strengthen each other. However, ballot measure campaigns sometimes distract activists from the movement’s more general goals, and activists at the movement level can pressure local campaigns to take on more than they can handle. With gay rights coming under increasing assault from the religious right, this book is a vital resource for LGBT activists and others working to block their efforts.
Combining rich empirical analysis with theoretical synthesis, these studies examine how homophobia travels across complex and ambiguous transnational networks, how it achieves and exerts decisive power, and how it shapes the collective identities and strategies of those groups it targets. The first comparative volume to focus specifically on the global diffusion of homophobia and its implications for an emerging worldwide LGBT movement, Global Homophobia opens new avenues of debate and dialogue for scholars, students, and activists.
Contributors are Mark Blasius, Michael J. Bosia, David K. Johnson, Kapya J. Kaoma, Christine (Cricket) Keating, Katarzyna Korycki, Amy Lind, Abouzar Nasirzadeh, Conor O'Dwyer, Meredith L. Weiss, and Sami Zeidan.
For decades, Singapore's gay activists have sought equality and justice in a state where law is used to stifle basic civil and political liberties. In her groundbreaking book, Mobilizing Gay Singapore, Lynette Chua asks, what does a social movement look like in an authoritarian state? She takes an expansive view of the gay movement to examine its emergence, development, strategies, and tactics, as well as the roles of law and rights in social processes.
Chua tells this important story using in-depth interviews with gay activists, observations of the movement's activities-including "Pink Dot" events, where thousands of Singaporeans gather in annual celebrations of gay pride-movement documents, government statements, and media reports. She shows how activists deploy "pragmatic resistance" to gain visibility and support, tackle political norms that suppress dissent, and deal with police harassment, while avoiding direct confrontations with the law.
Mobilizing Gay Singapore also addresses how these brave, locally engaged citizens come out into the open as gay activists and expand and diversify their efforts in the global queer political movement.
This book explores the origins and history of the modern American movement for homosexual rights, which originated in Los Angeles in the late 1940s and continues today. Part ethnography and part social history, it is a detailed account of the history of the movement as manifested through the emergence of four related organizations: Mattachine, ONE Incorporated, the Homosexual Information Center (HIC), and the Institute for the Study of Human Resources (ISHR), which began doing business as ONE Incorporated when the two organizations merged in 1995. Pre-Gay L.A. is a chronicle of how one clandestine special interest association emerged as a powerful political force that spawned several other organizations over a period of more than sixty years.
Relying on extended interviews with participants as well as a full review of the archives of the Homosexual Information Center, C. Todd White unearths the institutional histories of the gay and lesbian rights movement and the myriad personalities involved, including Mattachine founder Harry Hay; ONE Magazine editors Dale Jennings, Donald Slater, and Irma Wolf; ONE Incorporated founder Dorr Legg; and many others. Fighting to decriminalize homosexuality and to obtain equal rights, the viable organizations that these individuals helped to establish significantly impacted legal policies not only in Los Angeles but across the United States, affecting the lives of most of us living in America today.
Co-Winner of the 2015 Charles Tilly Award for Best Book of the Collective Behavior and Social Movements section from the American Sociological Association
Over four thousand gay and lesbian couples married in the city of San Francisco in 2004. The first large-scale occurrence of legal same-sex marriage, these unions galvanized a movement and reignited the debate about whether same-sex marriage, as some hope, challenges heterosexual privilege or, as others fear, preserves that privilege by assimilating queer couples.
In Queering Marriage, Katrina Kimport uses in-depth interviews with participants in the San Francisco weddings to argue that same-sex marriage cannot be understood as simply entrenching or contesting heterosexual privilege. Instead, she contends, these new legally sanctioned relationships can both reinforce as well as disrupt the association of marriage and heterosexuality.
During her deeply personal conversations with same-sex spouses, Kimport learned that the majority of respondents did characterize their marriages as an opportunity to contest heterosexual privilege. Yet, in a seeming contradiction, nearly as many also cited their desire for access to the normative benefits of matrimony, including social recognition and legal rights. Kimport’s research revealed that the pattern of ascribing meaning to marriage varied by parenthood status and, in turn, by gender. Lesbian parents were more likely to embrace normative meanings for their unions; those who are not parents were more likely to define their relationships as attempts to contest dominant understandings of marriage.
By posing the question—can queers “queer” marriage?—Kimport provides a nuanced, accessible, and theoretically grounded framework for understanding the powerful effect of heterosexual expectations on both sexual and social categories.
The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) was founded in 1990 as the first NGO devoted to advancing LGBT human rights worldwide. How, this book asks, is that mission translated into practice? What do transnational LGBT human rights advocates do on a day-to-day basis and for whom? Understanding LGBT human rights claims is impossible, Ryan R. Thoreson contends, without knowing the answers to these questions.
In Transnational LGBT Activism, Thoreson argues that the idea of LGBT human rights is not predetermined but instead is defined by international activists who establish what and who qualifies for protection. He shows how IGLHRC formed and evolved, who is engaged in this work, how they conceptualize LGBT human rights, and how they have institutionalized their views at the United Nations and elsewhere. After a full year of in-depth research in New York City and Cape Town, South Africa, Thoreson is able to reconstruct IGLHRC’s early campaigns and highlight decisive shifts in the organization’s work from its founding to the present day.
Using a number of high-profile campaigns for illustration, he offers insight into why activists have framed particular demands in specific ways and how intergovernmental advocacy shapes the claims that activists ultimately make. The result is a uniquely balanced, empirical response to previous impressionistic and reductive critiques of Western human rights activists—and a clarifying perspective on the nature and practice of global human rights advocacy.
A questioning of the belief in the power of LGBTQ visibility through the lives of queer women in the rural Midwest
Today most LGBTQ rights supporters take for granted the virtue of being “out, loud, and proud.” Most also assume that it would be terrible to be LGBTQ in a rural place. By considering moments in which queerness and rurality come into contact, Visibility Interrupted argues that both positions are wrong. In the first monograph on LGBTQ women in the rural Midwest, Carly Thomsen deconstructs the image of the rural as a flat, homogenous, and anachronistic place where LGBTQ people necessarily suffer. And she suggests that visibility is not liberation and will not lead to liberation.
Far from being an unambiguous good, argues Thomsen, visibility politics can, in fact, preclude collective action. They also advance metronormativity, postraciality, and capitalism. To make these interventions, Thomsen develops the theory of unbecoming: interrogating the relationship between that which we celebrate and that which we find disdainful—the past, the rural, politics—is crucial for developing alternative subjectivities and politics. Unbecoming precedes becoming. Drawing from critical race studies, disability studies, and queer Marxism, in addition to feminist and queer studies, the insights of this book will be useful to scholars theorizing issues far beyond sexuality and place and to social justice activists who want to move beyond visibility.
In this collection of essays, D’Emilio brings his historian’s eye to bear on these profound changes in American society, culture, and politics. He explores the career of Bayard Rustin, a civil rights leader and pacifist who was openly gay a generation before almost everyone else; the legacy of radical gay and lesbian liberation; the influence of AIDS activist and writer Larry Kramer; the scapegoating of gays and lesbians by the Christian Right; the gay-gene controversy and the debate over whether people are "born gay"; and the explosion of attention focused on queer families. He illuminates the historical roots of contemporary debates over identity politics and explains why the gay community has become, over the last decade, such a visible part of American life.
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