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Article

The Politics of Same-Sex Marriage Reforms  

Ivana Isailović

Over the past few years, same-sex marriage reforms have become central to contemporary LGBTQ movements. As a result of their mobilizations, many countries across the world have adopted same-sex marriage reforms. According to scholars, LGBTQ movements were successful in part because they used law and legal discourse, arguing that same-sex marriage flows from states’ legal obligations to protect equality and prohibit discrimination. The turn to law and the law of marriage in the local and transnational contexts may fail, however, to deliver substantive justice for all LGBTQ people. First, same-sex marriage reforms, rather than being just a translation of equality into law, is a product of ideological and legal battles in specific socioeconomic contexts. For instance, in the United States, same-sex marriage, rather than being another form of relationship recognition, became prominent because of the centrality of marriage in the country’s economic, cultural, and legal order. Second, the law of marriage is a system of governance historically shaped by different-sex couples’ needs, with specific one-size-fits-all rules that may not correspond to LGBTQ individuals’ desires, wishes, and lived experiences. Third, as queer theorists have shown, the law of marriage creates an “outside,” a space of exclusion that is inseparable from the legal regime of marriage and the cultural intelligibility of marriage. The emphasis on marriage by LGBTQ movements risks delegitimizing other forms of intimate relationships. The emphasis on marriage may also entrench neoliberalism in contexts in which the marriage, not the state, is seen as a primary safety net. Finally, in the global or transnational setting, claims for same-sex marriage may perhaps unintentionally feed into representations of civilizational conflicts, between those countries that recognize same-sex marriage and those that do not, while also erasing the variety of local practices around sexuality and gender norms.

Article

Australia’s History of LGBTI Politics and Rights  

Noah Riseman

In the past 50 years, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) activism in Australia has grown from small, localized organizations to national campaigns calling on all Australians to affirm LGBTI people’s equality. While the issues and activist strategies have evolved over the past 50 years, there have been two persistent patterns: most organizations and activism have been state based and have drawn on international influences, especially from the United Kingdom and United States. In the 1970s the organizations CAMP (Campaign Against Moral Persecution) and Gay Liberation presented competing visions of LGBTI equality, but both recognized the importance of visibility in order to change societal attitudes and influence law reform. Campaigns to decriminalize male homosexuality began in the 1970s and continued across the states through the 1980s and even into the 1990s in Tasmania. After law reform, activists shifted their advocacy to other areas including anti-discrimination laws, relationship recognition, and eventually marriage equality. HIV/AIDS was another important cause that generated grassroots activism within LGBTI communities. State AIDS councils worked in partnership with the federal government, and Australia had one of the world’s best public health responses to the epidemic. Pop culture, international media, and visibility at events such as the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras gradually shifted public opinions in favor of LGB equality by the 2000s. Transgender and intersex rights and acceptance were slower to enter the public agenda, but by the 2010s, those two groups had attained a level of visibility and were breaking down preconceived stereotypes and challenging prejudice. Indeed, politicians lagged behind public opinion on marriage equality, delaying and obfuscating the issue as the major political parties grappled with internal divisions. In 2017 the Commonwealth government held a postal survey asking Australian voters whether or not they supported same-sex marriage. This was an unprecedented exercise in Australian polity that was divisive, but LGBTI activists succeeded in their campaign and secured an overwhelming victory. The postal survey’s outcome also set the stage for new political fights around LGBTI people’s rights: so-called religious freedom, transgender birth certificates and support for LGBTI young people.

Article

Attitudes Toward LGBT+ People and Policies: Political Tolerance and Egalitarianism  

Lauren Elliott-Dorans

Political tolerance and commitment to egalitarianism have long been examined as possible contributors to attitudes toward LGBT+ people and policies. Since the 1970s, American attitudes toward LGBT+ issues have changed drastically. During this period, public policy and measures of public opinion toward LGBT+ rights have focused on a variety of areas, such as nondiscrimination laws, gay military service, and family matters such as adoption and marriage. Interestingly, although support for equality has remained the same in the United States, individuals have become rapidly more supportive of LGBT+ people securing equal rights in a variety of domains. There are three primary reasons for this shift: elite messaging, attributions of homosexuality, and contact with members of the LGBT+ community, both direct and indirect. These factors have led to an environment in which the value of equality is more readily applied to LGBT+ issues, therefore increasing support for these rights over time. Elite messaging has played a key role in this shift. Across LGBT+ issues, equality frames are often countered with moral traditionalism, thus leading to an increased propensity for individuals to associate LGBT+ issues with these values. The effectiveness of equality frames has been bolstered by the growing belief that homosexuality is a fixed rather than chosen trait, which yields a greater reliance upon egalitarianism when evaluating LGBT+-related issues. At the same time, both direct and indirect contact with the LGBT+ community increased following the Stonewall Riots of 1969. Americans were first introduced to gay characters on television in the 1970s. LG characters gained more prominent roles throughout the 1990s on shows such as The Real World and Will and Grace. Following Stonewall, LGBT+ activist organizations also advocated that members of the community “come out of the closet” and reveal their sexual orientation to the people in their lives. Thus, the chances of Americans knowing—or at least feeling like they knew—an LGBT+ person increased. Consistent with Allport’s Contact Theory (1954) and Zajonc’s work on “mere exposure effects” (1968), affect toward LGBT+ individuals has generally grown more positive with greater interaction and familiarity. These various factors interacted with underlying predispositions to drastically move public opinion in favor of greater equality for LGBT+ people.

Article

The Evolution of Same-Sex Marriage Policy in the United States  

Sarah Poggione

On June 26, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court determined that same-sex couples have the right to marry, and newspapers across the country declared that gay couples could now exercise this right in all 50 states. While the Obergefell decision was an important moment in history and a significant victory for the LGBT movement, it was not an immediate and complete change in policy. Rather, the change emerged slowly over decades from numerous complex interactions among federal, state, and local governmental actors. These same actors continue to influence marriage equality even after the Supreme Court’s historic ruling. A careful consideration of the path of marriage equality demonstrates the importance of federalism in the evolution of policy in the U.S. context. Not only does the extent of federal involvement influence state decision-making, but state policies also respond to the policymaking processes in other states. Examining the progression of marriage rights for same-sex couples also illustrates how variation in state government institutions shape policy outcomes in the U.S. system. For example, aspects of state courts such as judicial capacity influence the nature of state policy responses on the issue of gay marriage. Finally, focusing on marriage equality provides an opportunity to consider how institutions of government and political actors strategically interact to influence the policymaking process. For example, advocacy coalitions make strategic choices to focus on levels and institutions of government that are more responsive to their interests. Overall, same-sex marriage policy and the scholarship that investigates it highlight the complex and sometimes convoluted development that characterizes the policymaking process on many important issues in American politics and society.

Article

Legal and Policy Battles Over Same-Sex Relationships  

Erez Aloni

Since the 1980s, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) social movements worldwide have put significant energy into securing relationship rights. In the 1970s, however, the general sentiment in such movements in the Occident had been anti-marriage and anti-nuclear family. This changed in the 1980s due to three factors: the impact of HIV/AIDS, which emphasized how vulnerable same-sex families are; the rise of families headed by same-sex parents who did not have the same protections as their different-sex counterparts; and globalization, which transferred the ideas about same-sex relationships among movements and created energy and useful policy connections. During the 1990s, a wave of marriage alternatives spread around the world, sometimes extended by legislatures and other times by courts. The rise of alternatives has raised these questions: are they a temporary compromise on the path to marriage equality; are they a replacement for marriage that is free of its historical discriminatory heritage; or are they proposing an additional legal institution alongside marriage? In the 2000s and since, marriage equality became realistic and more common as two dozen countries gradually extended marriage rights to same-sex couples, initially in Europe and North America, but later also in Australasia, in the entire Americas, and even—in fewer countries—in Asia and Africa. Incrementalism is the generally accepted theory for why progress occurs in some countries and delays in others. However, scholars have criticized the theory as descriptively inaccurate and, normatively, as portraying marriage as the final frontier for LGBTQ equality—thus contributing to that community’s emphasis on marriage equality to the neglect of other possible advocacy avenues. Further, the incrementalistic account should take into consideration that the path toward recognition is not linear and is international as well as national. Supranational courts have played an important role in the progress toward recognizing same-sex relationships; at the same time, the globalization of LGBTQ relationship rights has also resulted in a strong backlash and in regression in some countries.

Article

Marriage Equality Policy Diffusion  

Helma G. E. de Vries-Jordan

Marriage equality movements have been successful in achieving policy change in an increasing number of states. Hence, a growing body of scholarship has explored institutional and cultural factors that influence activists’ tactics and messaging and, in turn, contribute to marriage equality policy diffusion. Democracies with parliamentary, presidential, and semi-presidential systems, federal and unitary states with varying levels of centralization, and the presence or absence of constitutional anti-discrimination protections provide social movements with divergent political opportunity structures, contributing to dynamics in their tactical choices. In addition, the type of electoral system and party system, the presence of political parties that are movement allies, the use of conscience votes, the level of party discipline, the presence of out LGBT elected officials and straight political allies, and the degree of political will to enact policy change also impact activists’ strategic calculations. Finally, the use of personalized narratives in advocates’ messaging, the framing of marriage equality and LGBT rights as human rights norms, the adoption of family values frames to coopt opponents’ messaging, and the use of homonationalist versus homophobic discourses to justify policymaking decisions regarding same-sex marriage are explored. This article provides a comprehensive review of state-of-the-art research concerning all of the states that have legalized same-sex marriage as well as a detailed analysis of the mechanisms used to achieve policy change. After examining how different explanatory factors perform in accounting for the dynamics in marriage equality activism and policy convergence across a broad range of national contexts, new directions for future scholarship are suggested.