Protest to Perry: The Legalization of the LGBT Movement

Gwyn-LeachmanA Williams Institute Works-in-Progress Series

Gwendolyn Leachman, Sears Law Teaching Fellow, The Williams Institute

Monday, September 30, 2013  
UCLA School of Law
12:15 – 1:30 p.m.

*To RSVP please call (310) 267-4382.

Abstract: Marriage equality and other legal goals have dominated LGBT politics. Through an historical case study of the LGBT movement I examine how litigation may become privileged relative to other tactics, such that the political priorities pursued through litigation are elevated on the broader movement agenda. I show that litigation garnered more media attention than any other movement tactic and that litigating organizations survived longer than all other types of LGBT movement organizations. I also show that LGBT protest organizations seized on the legal issues projected in the mainstream media to form their agendas, subtly redirecting those protest organizations away from their original priorities and toward legal goals. This suggests that LGBT movement litigation was the most visible and enduring movement tactic, and that the priorities being litigated became the focus of other movement efforts. Understanding these mechanisms, which heighten the influence of LGBT movement litigation and potentially marginalize the movement’s more radical or cultural goals, will allow civil rights lawyers in the LGBT movement and beyond to provide more effective representation and achieve more transformative social change.

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