Scholars have long debated the role of social movements in changing policy outcomes – whether and how do they matter. Policies can also create political opportunities for social movements. Policies empower historically disadvantaged groups and provide them with the tools and resources to mobilize their rights. Indeed, as David Meyer put it, scholars often grapple with the “chicken-and-egg” problem of policy and mobilization; that is, which comes first? Thinking about this alleged paradox raises questions about the role of social movements following legislative “victories.”
Following the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), should we expect a strong backlash from opponents of gay marriage? If so, what will this backlash look like? Right now, we have heard statements from a few key opponents – from Michelle Bachmann to Mike Huckabee. But will opposition grow into a full-scale countermovement, especially as state legislatures increasingly become the site of the gay marriage conflict? I also ask this question in light of the recent French example where the legalization of gay marriage led to significant involvement of both grassroots and elite elements (albeit motivated by different grievances) converging to attack the Hollande government’s legalization of same-sex marriage.
Supporters of gay marriage celebrate after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the Defense of Marriage Act and declined to rule on the California law Proposition 8 in Washington, D.C., U.S. on Wednesday, June 26, 2013. Photographer: Joshua Roberts/Bloomberg
Countermobilization in France around the recent legalization of gay marriage raises several key issues. First, despite the fact that it was well known to activists that protests would not deter the French government from going through with the legislation, protests grew increasingly more intense and continued to do so following the legislation. Second, as I noted in a previous post, it became increasingly clear that what has people mobilized is not so much the right of gays and lesbians to marry but rather, the part of the legislation that deals with assisted procreation and surrogate motherhood for gay couples. Continue reading
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
Most lesbian couples I know grapple with how to label their partner publicly. For instance, even before we were able to legally wed, but after we had a ceremony that looked a whole lot like a wedding, I decided to refer to my partner as my wife. I reasoned: conservatives could prevent me from actually being able to be married, but they couldn’t enlist me in my own subjugation by getting me to not refer to my relationship as a marriage. But, wife has two downsides. First, some would argue that wife versus spouse is old school. This one wasn’t stopping me because neither my wife nor I dislike being referred to as the other person’s wife. Second, and more problematic from my standpoint, this probably leads straight folks who aren’t up on the legal status of same sex unions—and believe me, there are a lot of straight folks that fit this bill—to assume that I have more legal rights than I actually have/had (depending on the state I am standing in). I certainly don’t want to encourage that misunderstanding. So, what is a lesbian in a committed relationship to do?
As you may have heard on the news, or perhaps from a co-worker, August 1 was Chik-fil-a appreciation day. This was an event driven by backlash against the perceived stifling of the Dan Cathy’s (the president and CEO of the company) right to express his opinion on gay marriage (he is very much opposed). His comments spurred several gay rights groups to call for a boycott of Chik-fil-a. While the verdict is still out on the boycott it did have one major unintended effect, mobilizing opposition. To show support for Chik-fil-a, and Mr. Cathy’s comments hundreds of thousands of supporters showed up to purchase something from their local restaurant setting a single day sales record for the corporation. This story struck me for two very differnet reasons, the first is how tactics and strategy align to create success or failure for a movement, and the second is how social media played in this situation.
A recent, tear-inducing article in Slate covers an important aspect of social movements and their outcomes, particularly the important roles they play in changing institutional policies/structures and people’s lives. It covers the first gay wedding on a military installation and highlights the important role of the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT) in this historic moment.
Although the article doesn’t describe these trail-blazing men as activists per se, in the article you see glimpses of their connection to the wider movement for openness and equality in the military. Continue reading
My esteemed colleagues have noted the many recent victories regarding LGBT rights and same-sex marriage and that public support for same-sex marriage is growing stronger, especially among younger cohorts. However, policy change and social acceptance are uneven and, arguably in states with constitutional defense of marriage acts (DOMAs), things may even be worse now in terms of policy than they were previously. Continue reading