Tag Archives: courts

Cross-national gay marriage politics, the courts, and the context of activism

Mobilizing Idea’s recent Essay Dialogue on movements and the courts was inspired in part by the DOMA case on the U.S. Supreme Court docket. In her essay, Martinez discusses the role of the Supreme Court in light of a changing political and cultural context regarding gay marriage. While U.S. states have become increasingly polarized on same-sex marriage (SSM), public opinion appears to have shifted in favor of marriage equality. These environmental shifts may be important for legal mobilization. Drawing from classic sociological theory, Martinez writes that “When activists turn to law and demand legal change, it only works when the cultural conditions and political conditions are out of alignment with law. The law changes to match social beliefs and practices.” As Bua of the Huffington Post claims, “the times they are a ‘changin.’” Continue reading

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Courtrooms as Spaces for Activism

By Jay Kim and Karen Gargamelli

Common Law is a small nonprofit organization in Queens, New York that uses legal education and legal services to support organizing efforts.  One of our founding principles is our belief that the court system is inherently unfair.  Because of this, it is impossible for us to view the courts as an appropriate route to social change.  The courts can, however, be a space for activism and politicization.

We have spent the past five years working with homeowners fighting back against foreclosure.  We have seen firsthand how entire neighborhoods have been devastated by the foreclosure crisis while the court system has allowed banks to act illegally.  Because of this, we have intentionally targeted courtrooms as a place for protest and activism.  Continue reading

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Predicting the Legal Outcomes on Marriage Equality: What Explains Legal Change Around Civil Liberties?

By Elizabeth E. Martinez

When do social movements use the courts in pursuing their goals? The question might be rewritten to say: assuming that activists will always or often use the courts as one of many strategies, when are they successful in court? When is the law likely to change in response to activist’s lawsuits? This is a pertinent question as we see the U.S. Supreme Court taking up two cases about marriage equality.

One case is about Proposition 8, which took away the right for same-sex couples to marry in California (Hollingsworth v. Perry), and the other case (U.S. v. Windsor) is about the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) Continue reading

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Beware of Lawyers Bearing Gifts, or Why Social Movements Should Be Wary of Litigation

By Steven E. Barkan

The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule later this spring on issues concerning same-sex marriage. Whatever the Court decides, its decisions will be momentous. This fact brings to mind an intriguing topic in the law and social movement literature for social movement scholars and activists to consider: the degree to which litigation (or legal mobilization, to use a favored term in the literature) is a potentially effective strategy for achieving social movement goals. In view of the impending Court decisions, certain observations, based on a growing body of work by legal and social movement scholars, seem in order. Continue reading

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Same-Sex Marriage Reaches the High Court: Comments on Law and the LGBT Movement

By Nicholas Pedriana

In December of last year, the Supreme Court announced that it would hear two cases involving same-sex marriage.  One case challenges the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the 1996 statute that defines marriage—for federal benefits purposes—as one man and one woman.  The other case challenges the constitutionality of California’s Proposition 8 that prohibits same-sex marriage in the nation’s largest state, and which could result in a revolutionary, across-the-board ruling requiring all states to recognize same-sex unions.

Given where things stood just 10 to 12 years ago, the very possibility that the Supreme Court might consider legalizing same-sex marriage is nothing short of astounding.  Continue reading

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