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The Marrying Kind?Debating Same-Sex Marriage within the Lesbian and Gay Movement$

Mary Bernstein and Verta Taylor

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780816681716

Published to Minnesota Scholarship Online: August 2015

DOI: 10.5749/minnesota/9780816681716.001.0001

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Same-Sex Marriage and Constituent Perceptions of the LGBT Rights Movement

Same-Sex Marriage and Constituent Perceptions of the LGBT Rights Movement

(p.67) 2 Same-Sex Marriage and Constituent Perceptions of the LGBT Rights Movement
The Marrying Kind?

Kathleen E. Hull

Timothy A. Ortyl

University of Minnesota Press

Abstract and Keywords

Kathleen E. Hull and Timothy Ortyl consider whether LGBTQ people support the movement’s focus on the right to marry. Through in-depth interviews with community members, Hull and Ortyl show that there is substantial support among LGBTQ constituents for the movement’s broad goals, including the focus on marriage and family concerns.

Keywords:   Same sex marriage, LGBT movement, lesbian and gay couples, queer theory, post-gay identity, anti-same sex marriage initiatives, same sex marriage and the law, same sex marriage protests, San Francisco same sex wedding protest, Proposition 8

MOST RESEARCH ON SOCIAL MOVEMENTS examines the words and actions of activists. Traditionally, when researchers turn their attention to a movement’s nonactivist base, they do so to assess the effects of activists’ choices on the constituents. For example, researchers often focus on how activists’ tactical choices and framing of issues affect mobilization or the fostering of a collective identity among constituents. Very little research has addressed the more fundamental question of what a movement’s constituency thinks of the job the movement is doing. Of course, there is every reason to assume that a causal relationship exists between constituents’ views of a movement and their ability to be mobilized or the likelihood of their forming a sense of collective identity. Constituents who hold a highly negative view of a movement are not likely to support it with time, money, or other resources, and their sense of collective identity with activists and fellow constituents is likely to be low. Yet surprisingly little research has directly investigated constituents’ views of movements.

This chapter seeks to correct this omission in the case of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights movement. We offer a detailed examination of how its everyday constituents view the LGBT rights movement, with particular attention to the movement’s recent focus on same-sex marriage and its handling of marriage and (p.68) family issues. On the marriage issue in particular, we have noticed that commentators (scholarly and otherwise) often make assumptions about what movement constituents think about the movement’s goals and tactics. As described below, queer scholars and critics have been especially skeptical about whether the movement’s pursuit of legal same-sex marriage represents the views and priorities of most constituents. By contrast, commentators supportive of the marriage focus assert that legal marriage is a desirable goal for constituents. These debates among scholars and activists about what constituents want or need occur in the broader context of long-running intracommunity debates about whether the pursuit of legal marriage represents a problematic bid for assimilation into the societal mainstream or a transformative redefinition of marriage and family (Eskridge 1996; Ettelbrick 1992; Hunter 1991; Polikoff 1993, 2008; Rauch 2004; Stoddard 1992; Sullivan 1996; Vaid 1995; Walters 2001; Warner 1999; Wolfson 1994, 2004).

Using data from individual and focus-group interviews with ordinary LGBT individuals, we address the following empirical questions: What do ordinary LGBT people think of the LGBT rights movement today? Do they feel represented by the movement? How do movement opinions and sense of representation vary among constituents? And, how do constituents view the movement’s pursuit of the goal of legal same-sex marriage specifically, and greater recognition and protection for LGBT families more generally?

In examining these questions, we draw upon concepts from the social movements literature. Past work on how social movements evolve over time provides a backdrop for considering how well the LGBT rights movement represents the needs and interests of its constituents. Specifically, we use constituent perceptions of the movement to examine secondary marginalization within the LGBT rights movement. We find evidence of secondary marginalization among constituents, but we argue that the movement’s focus on same-sex marriage contributes to such marginalization only in a limited way.

(p.69) Movement Evolution and Secondary Marginalization

Social movement scholars have long been interested in understanding how movements evolve over time and what implications those changes have for movement goals, priorities, and effectiveness. The work of classical theorists Max Weber and Robert Michels has been influential in shaping the understanding of social movement evolution. Weber predicted that the spread of formal rationality would push organizations toward formalization and bureaucratization, and the replacement of individual charismatic leaders by the routinization of charisma (Weber [1922] 1978). Michels’s iron law of oligarchy asserted that formal organizations tend toward oligarchy, or rule by the few, even in cases where members desire more democratic forms of organization (Michels [1915] 1962). Applying these insights to social movements, resource mobilization scholars developed the Weber-Michels thesis, which posits that once social movement organizations (SMOs) attain a firm economic and social base, they move toward formalized bureaucratic structures and away from charismatic individual leaders in favor of a cadre of elite professional leadership (Zald and Ash 1966).

These tendencies enhance the long-term stability of SMOs, but at the price of increasing accommodation to dominant society; for most social-change-oriented SMOs, this translates into increasing conservatism in terms of goals and strategies (McCarthy and Zald 1977). Building on Selznick’s (1949) seminal work on the co-optation of the Tennessee Valley Authority, a rich empirical literature has documented numerous examples of movements becoming more conservative and being co-opted (Coy and Hedeen 2005; W. A. Gamson [1990] 1975; Meyer and Tarrow 1998; Naples 2002; Piven and Cloward 1977; Staggenborg 1988).

One of the likely effects of movement formalization and conservatization is what political scientist Cathy Cohen calls secondary marginalization (Cohen 1999). According to Cohen, secondary marginalization occurs when the more privileged members of a marginal-ized social group attempt to manage the behavior, attitudes, and public (p.70) image of the marginalized group in order to secure respect and resources from the dominant society (Cohen 1999, 70). The effect of secondary marginalization is to downplay the needs and priorities of less privileged members of the group. In some cases, more privileged group members make a bid for support from the dominant society by rendering less privileged group members invisible or defining them as outside the group’s boundaries. Secondary marginalization intensifies existing inequalities within marginalized groups, as less advantaged group members are denied access not only to the material and symbolic resources of the dominant society, but to the more limited internal resources of their own group as well.

In the case of marginalized groups represented by formalized social movements, one likely outcome of secondary marginalization is that the needs of less privileged group members will receive less attention from movement organizations and leadership. Dara Strolovitch’s recent research on national organizations advocating for marginalized groups confirms this effect. Using survey and interview data on 286 advocacy organizations representing women, racial/ethnic minorities, or low-income people, Strolovitch (2007) demonstrates that issues that primarily affect more disadvantaged members1 of the marginalized group receive less attention and fewer resources than issues that affect the group as a whole or issues that mainly affect more advantaged members of the group. We suggest that secondary marginalization should be defined expansively enough to include not only the actions of movement organizations (i.e., giving less attention and resources to some issues), but also the perception by disadvantaged group members that the social movement is not doing a good job of representing their interests. In other words, there is a subjective component to secondary marginalization that is potentially independent of the actual behaviors of movement organizations and leadership.

Some recent work has specifically addressed the issue of secondary marginalization in the LGBT rights movement. In her comparative analysis of same-sex marriage litigation in Canada and the United States, Miriam Smith (2007) argues that the equal rights frame has prevailed in LGBT activism in both countries at the expense of a queer cultural frame that offers a more critical perspective on the institution (p.71) of marriage. Smith notes that “[t]he rights frame has a powerful structuring influence on political discourse because of its fit with the legal legacies of human rights protections in constitutional law within both legal traditions and with the model of socio-legal mobilization provided by the African-American civil rights movement” (6). Smith points out that plaintiffs in key marriage cases in both countries were mostly white and middle class, and many were parents and had religious affiliations. Smith contends that the choice of such plaintiffs by marriage activists reflects a “policing of the gay image such that queer culture was rendered invisible” (18).

Amy Stone’s research (2006, 2009) on campaigns to pass transgender-inclusive nondiscrimination ordinances in three Michigan cities highlights the secondary marginalization of transgender people in the LGBT rights movement. Stone argues that transgender people have often been subject to “implicit inclusion” (2006, 9) in the LGBT movement, meaning that while they are formally identified as part of the movement, their issues are not treated as important as or distinct from the issues of the dominant constituency (i.e., gay men and lesbians). Stone concludes that transgender marginalization is most likely to be overcome in situations where non-transgender movement activists are strongly committed to transgender inclusion and take an active role in getting transgender issues on the movement agenda.

Paralleling these scholarly investigations of secondary marginalization, there has been extensive debate within LGBT communities about the direction of the movement and the question of whether the movement adequately represents the concerns of its supposed constituencies. Queer scholars and activists have leveled harsh critiques against the movement’s supposed tendency toward assimilationist goals and strategies, with the goal of legal same-sex marriage often singled out as a prime example of the broader tendency (e.g., Warner 1999). Such critics argue that the movement has betrayed its liberationist roots and turned its back on its most disadvantaged and stigmatized constituents in an effort to achieve social normalcy. In her book Virtual Equality, activist Urvashi Vaid (1995) argues that the movement’s priorities increasingly reflect the interests of its most privileged members, those who are already most “mainstream” (i.e., white and upper middle class). Transgender (p.72) activists have become more vocal about the movement’s failure to address the needs of transgender people.

Several scholar-activists assert that the movement is using an overly narrow vision of family in formulating its policy goals and strategies. Rather than focusing intensively on legal marriage, these critics argue, the movement should be advocating for recognition and support for a wide diversity of family forms, such as single-parent households, polyamorous relationships, and close friends in nonsexual relationships who act as one another’s primary support and/or caregiver (Duggan 2003; Polikoff 2008; see also BeyondMarriage.org 2006). Critics of the push for same-sex marriage frequently assert that marriage is a movement goal that is most compelling for, and most potentially beneficial to, the most privileged members of the LGBT movement constituency. However, this claim has received little empirical investigation to date.

By contrast, scholars and activists supportive of the movement’s pursuit of same-sex marriage recognition challenge the argument that marriage will mainly benefit the movement’s most advantaged constituents and that many constituents are not really that interested in marriage. One recent paper (Cahill 2009) uses U.S. Census data to argue that households headed by black and Latino/a same-sex couples actually have the most to gain from legal marriage rights, because they are most in need of the protections legal marriage provides. Specifically, these couples are more likely to be raising children and have lower household incomes than white same-sex couples.2 Couples that include Latino/a partners are more likely to benefit from the immigration provisions of legal marriage. Concerning constituents’ desire for access to marriage, activists such as Evan Wolfson assert that average movement constituents see marriage as an important movement objective, even if their enthusiasm for marriage is not always shared by movement elites. Citing data on gay men and lesbians’ desire for marriage from polls conducted by gay publications, Wolfson asserts: “Even though equal marriage rights, until recently, seemed a dream, all available evidence suggests that the vast majority of gay and nongay people alike share such sentiments” (1994, 583).

Our data on constituent perceptions of the LGBT rights movement (p.73) provide the opportunity to assess in a systematic fashion the presence of secondary marginalization in the LGBT rights movement and the possible relationship between secondary marginalization of the most disadvantaged constituents of the movement and the movement’s pursuit of legal marriage. What is the evidence for secondary marginalization by the LGBT rights movement, based on perceptions of movement constituents? And, if there is evidence of secondary marginalization, does it appear to be linked to the movement’s pursuit of legal same-sex marriage, as queer critics of the movement contend?

Research Methods

The findings we present are from a study of close relationships and conceptions of family among LGBT people. The study includes seventyfour individual in-depth interviews and seven focus-group interviews with thirty-one participants, for a total sample of 105 LGBT respondents. Interviews were conducted in 2007–2008. Topics covered in the individual and focus-group interviews included respondents’ personal background and coming-out story, their current relationships (including their three closest adult relationships and broader social networks), their conceptions of family and marriage, and their views of the mainstream LGBT rights movement. Answers to the questions about the movement serve as the data for the analysis presented here. In this section of the interview, respondents were asked for their general opinion of the “mainstream LGBT rights movement” and whether they felt personally represented by the movement. If respondents requested clarification about the meaning of “mainstream LGBT rights movement,” we gave examples of organizations that we consider part of the mainstream movement, such as the Human Rights Campaign, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, and Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund at the national level and OutFront Minnesota at the local/state level. Respondents were also asked what they thought the current priorities of the movement are and what the movement’s priorities should be, and they were asked their views of the movement’s current focus on family issues such as same-sex marriage and gay/lesbian (p.74) parenting. We collected background information on respondent characteristics through a demographic information sheet completed at the end of the interview.

The interview sample was drawn from people living in the Minneapolis–St. Paul metro area, rural areas within driving distance of the metro area, and the St. Cloud, Minnesota, area. We used a combination of methods to recruit people for the study. We rented a booth at the 2007 Twin Cities Pride Festival, a large two-day event held in a public park in Minneapolis in conjunction with the annual Pride parade. We staffed the booth for the entire event, distributing basic information about our study, answering questions about the research, and inviting interested parties to fill out a screening form to be considered for inclusion in the study. Just over one-third of the overall interview sample was recruited via the Pride Festival outreach. The rest of the sample was recruited through reaching out to a broad range of LGBT community organizations, posting flyers in public spaces frequented by LGBT people, advertising, and receiving unsolicited referrals from study participants. Potential participants were directed to a website where they could fill out a screening form and leave contact information. We paid respondents a $25 stipend for participating in the study.

In assembling the sample for this study, we made a special effort to correct for the weaknesses of some past studies of the LGBT population by giving priority to groups underrepresented in past research, especially bisexuals, transgender people, racial/ethnic minorities, workingclass or poor people, and people living outside of large cities. This resulted in a sample that is probably more representative of the diversity of the LGBT population than many comparable studies, although our sample is likely more highly educated than the LGBT population as a whole.3 Table 2.1 provides an overview of sample characteristics of the respondents.

All interviews were audio-recorded and transcribed verbatim. For the current analysis, we performed detailed coding of the section of the interviews covering respondents’ views of the movement. We started with a basic set of codes (for example, whether the respondent expressed a positive, negative, or mixed opinion of the movement) and then used (p.75) inductive analysis to develop more detailed subcodes. We analyzed the coded transcripts to identify patterns in the coding, particularly patterns related to respondent characteristics such as race/ethnicity, social class, sexual orientation, and gender identity. This step allowed us to assess the presence and degree of secondary marginalization among movement constituents.

Constituent Perceptions of the LGBT Rights Movement

Our interview findings demonstrate how ordinary LGBT people perceive the LGBT movement.4 We start with their general opinions of the movement, then describe respondents’ sense of whether they are represented by the movement, their perceptions of what the movement’s current priorities are and what its priorities should be, and their views of the movement’s handling of marriage and family issues. We find that marriage and family issues are perceived to be among the movement’s highest priorities, and most respondents express the view that this focus on marriage and family is appropriate. Although there is some evidence of secondary marginalization in the movement, we see only limited evidence that this marginalization is related to the movement’s focus on marriage.

General Opinions of the Movement

A plurality of respondents who gave an opinion on the movement expressed a mixed opinion. Among those who had a clear positive or negative opinion, positive views were more common (see Figure 2.1). People who held a positive view of the movement mentioned several specific reasons for their assessment. Common perceptions included that the movement has made great strides recently; that the organizations who advocate on behalf of LGBT people are doing important work that the average LGBT person does not have the time or skill to do; that the movement’s current approach of working within the political system is more effective than a more radical approach; and that the mainstream LGBT rights movement is holding its own against powerful, well-resourced enemies.


Table 2.1. Sample Characteristics




Gay (male)



















Transgender or Genderqueer











White (non-Latino)



African-American or African



Mixed race or Other













Data missing




Upper middle class



Middle class



Working class or Poor




High school diploma or less



Some college (no degree)



Associate’s or Bachelor’s degree



Graduate degree



Data missing



(p.77) AGE




















St. Paul






St. Cloud area













Note: Some percentages do not total to 100 percent because of rounding.

(*) Includes “queer,” “omnisexual,” “two-spirit,” “questioning,” and “no labels.”

() Includes people who identified as “queer” or “genderqueer.”

() Includes Asian Americans, Latinos (any race), and American Indians.

Heather Weinhold,5 a forty-three-year-old white middle-class lesbian, is an example of someone who expressed a positive opinion of the movement. She said:

I think that we’re doing a good job. I think we learned a lot from the civil rights movement and that we’re taking a lot of those lessons, and that perseverance, and expressing our opinions. And we now have a vehicle. We can do that through HRC [Human Rights Campaign]. We can express our opinions not just as one person but as a group of people to representatives, to the communities. (p.78) I think Pride here, [the executive director] has done a great job with Pride. And showing the community of healthy individuals. That the majority of us aren’t whacked. The media loves to pick up on the one or two people that are just bizarre in a crowd. “These are what gay people look like.” And I think that this movement is really being smart about how we present ourselves to the world. Because we can present ourselves as a larger unit, I think it’s harder to ignore us and to say, “Oh, it’s just a few people.” And it’s not just a few people. It’s your nextdoor neighbor.

Heather credits the movement with fighting off negative stereotypes and making “the world” see that LGBT people are not “whacked” or “bizarre.” She also perceives that movement organizations have been successful in uniting the LGBT population as a viable political force.

People who express negative opinions of the movement do so for various reasons, with little consensus among them about the main shortcomings of the movement. While Heather perceived a unified movement, some argued that the movement is too fragmented. Others expressed concern that the movement has been co-opted and mainly

Same-Sex Marriage and Constituent Perceptions of the LGBT Rights Movement

Figure 2.1. General opinion of the LGBT rights movement.

(p.79) represents the needs of white middle-class gays and lesbians, implying that the movement is too unified around a narrow core of people and interests. People sometimes critiqued movement strategies and tactics, again for differing reasons. While some respondents argued that the movement should take a more incremental or pragmatic approach to achieving its goals, others contended that the movement should be bolder. Some observed that the movement has stagnated and lacks energy, but others complained that it was trying to do too much at once.

The concerns expressed by Lisa Chang were fairly typical of respondents who viewed the movement negatively. Lisa, a thirty-one-year-old Asian-American middle-class lesbian, remarked:

In general, no matter what they say or who they put in their pamphlets, I just believe them to be like, white men and women with a lot of money and weird agendas that I just, I don’t find to be very queer. They’re just, like, highly normative kind of things that they want to do. Like, I get that marriage is important to some people, I’m happy to be married, but it’s not really like, if I were to choose a national campaign, it wouldn’t be what I want to do. I understand that some lesbians want to go to some country club to play with their kids or have their membership, I don’t, it’s like they don’t get, they are not really interested in changing, in social change. I think they are really interested in kind of like, making us more like kind of heterosexual middle-class people, also white. And it’s kind of like, well, why? Why would we want to do that? I mean, it’s like, I understand for myself that I have kind of a low creativity in terms of, well, I don’t really like this but I’m not quite sure what I would do differently, but they’re a national movement. All they do is think about being gay, you know, you’d think they could come up with something that was, that changed people’s lives in a positive way and wasn’t just kind of more of the same garbage.

Even though Lisa is herself in a long-term relationship that she defines as a marriage, she cites the movement’s focus on same-sex marriage (p.80) as an example of the privilege and homonormativity that she believes characterize the mainstream movement. Lisa then went on to explain that she did not believe the current movement had much connection to the movement that began at Stonewall, with “trannies in a bar fighting about police brutality.” In this observation, Lisa echoes the queer activists who fault the movement for straying from its roots in sexual and gender liberation.

Nearly half of all respondents expressed a mixed view of the movement. For example, Hector Campos, a twenty-six-year-old middle-class Latino gay man, expressed frustration with the lack of coalition-building between the LGBT rights movement and other social justice movements:

I think we have a lot of capacity…. I think we could be more strategic, and [do] long-term thinking about how we get certain things achieved. Broader than that, I think we segment things too much…. We could be working on creating allegiances between different groups, you know, labor unions have been … folded in a little bit more … Like, why aren’t there any LGBT organizations working with CLUES [Comunidades Latinas Unidas en Servicio, a local Latino nonprofit organization], for example…. We have like a huge Latino population here now, and you don’t think that, you know, there’s all these numbers of like LGBT Latinos? I mean, of course there are. You know, I mean there’s so many, kind of, linkages to be made that people are not making.

Hector’s observations reflect both a concern about the movement not effectively advocating for underrepresented populations, such as LGBT Latinos, and a perceived need to develop strategic alliances with groups with similar social justice concerns. His remarks echo a perennial critique leveled by some movement observers that the identity politics model, which emphasizes sexual orientation as a fixed characteristic and LGBT people as a discrete and stable social group, inevitably produces a “single-issue, zero-sum model of politics” (Epstein 1999, 75) that makes broader political alliances difficult.

(p.81) Respondents who self-identified as transgender or bisexual appeared somewhat more likely than lesbian or gay respondents to express ambivalence about the LGBT movement. For example, Ryan Anderson, a forty-two-year-old white middle-class transgender man, expressed both gratitude for the movement’s presence and frustration with its lack of full inclusion of transgender people and issues:

Frankly, I’m grateful that [the movement is] there. I will be honest, though, and I will say that, and I can only speak for myself, but I do know that, in conversations within the trans community, there are a lot of people who say that the T has not caught up with the G, the L, or even the B. And that there’s a lot of sadness around that. I think some of the most difficult conversations I had about my transition were with my gay and lesbian friends.

Such ambivalence toward the movement also appeared in the comments of some other transgender respondents. In fact, transgender and genderqueer6 respondents tended to express more critical opinions of the movement than other respondents. Likewise, bisexual respondents were less likely to express a positive opinion of the movement than gay and lesbian respondents (although the difference was not as striking as the difference between transgender/genderqueer and non-transgender respondents).

There were no clear differences in overall opinion of the movement by race/ethnicity. In terms of social class, working-class and poor respondents were somewhat more likely to hold a positive view of the movement than middle-class and upper-middle-class respondents. At the same time, working-class/poor respondents were more likely to state they had no clear opinion of the movement, often owing to lack of knowledge of the movement’s current activities.

Sense of Representation by the Movement

When asked whether they feel represented by the mainstream LGBT movement, only a third of the respondents answered affirmatively without qualifying their response. More commonly, respondents reported that they felt represented in some ways but not others, or they stated (p.82) that they did not feel represented by the movement. Veronica Holloway, a forty-one-year-old middle-class African-American lesbian, is an example of someone who did not feel represented. She explained:

I don’t feel like I’m represented because I feel like some of the things that, for example, equal rights; equal rights to me as a black woman is completely different than someone that’s just gay. Because I fight for equal rights every day because of the color of my skin. So my fight is harder. My fight is a lifetime. So you might get with the goals that you’re reaching for. Could be marriage. But that’s only one thing. Where my struggle still continues. So I feel like a lot of times that, no, their voice doesn’t speak for me.

Veronica sees the movement’s goals as possibly attainable, but not focused on her greatest challenges as an African-American woman living in a racist society. Indeed, many of the people who said the movement did not represent them, or did not fully represent them, pointed to identity factors, such as being a racial/ethnic minority, being bisexual or transgender, or not being part of the upper middle class. As a result, sense of representation by the movement was strongly patterned by social location (see Figure 2.2).

Same-Sex Marriage and Constituent Perceptions of the LGBT Rights Movement

Figure 2.2. Whether respondent feels represented by movement.

(p.83) Most glaring were differences along the lines of gender identity: None of the twenty-two transgender respondents in our sample reported feeling fully represented by the movement. For instance, Melanie Hughes, a twenty-five-year-old white working-class transgender woman (a self-described “tranny girl”), described feeling actively excluded by the mainstream LGBT rights movement:

I see a big GL, sometimes B movement. And I see a trans movement but I can’t say I’ve ever seen a GLBT movement. I mean it’s kind of like I see people fighting for gay marriage and then I see people trying to get jobs. Or people doing mass anti-smoking campaigns for the GLBT movement. And I can’t get healthcare honey! Fuck smoking! It’s just basic, could we please get people to stop killing us legally? I’m really not concerned about who I’m going to be able to legally marry. I’d much rather have it be illegal to get stabbed in a bathroom. Just basic human rights. I feel like there’s a trans movement working on getting people basic human rights. And then there’s a GL sometimes B movement kind of just fighting for themselves and being, “Stay the fuck away from us. We’re going to go get married and we’re going to go get good jobs and we’re going to focus on this and you guys are obviously screwed. So we’re cutting you off.”

For Melanie, the very idea of an “LGBT movement” is a fiction. She perceives the mainstream LGBT rights movement to be focused on gay and lesbian issues, coming from a place of relative privilege with a desire to create more privilege. Thus, she thinks that the most basic trans issues such as physical safety are completely marginalized.

Like transgender respondents, bisexual respondents were unlikely to state unequivocally that they felt represented by the movement. In explaining why they did not feel represented, bisexual respondents expressed concerns about experiencing biphobia within the movement, feeling misunderstood by lesbians and gay men, and feeling as though they were not treated as equal or legitimate participants in the movement. Other bisexual respondents said they did not feel represented because they simply do not need anything from the movement (p.84) at this time, in some cases because they are currently in opposite-sex relationships and the movement is not working on issues that directly affect them.

Working-class and even middle-class respondents were less likely to say they felt represented than upper-middle-class respondents. Lillian Dominguez is a thirty-one-year-old Latina bisexual woman who considers herself middle class, yet the issue of class emerges as a reason she does not feel completely represented by the movement:

Well, like when I went to the HRC dinner. Well, first of all the only way I could afford it is because [my partner] Jane got these comp tickets. She gets comp tickets for you name it. And she wanted me to feel welcome, and I dressed up and I talked with her people, and it was just totally inaccessible. It was all about money. Large money, and how can we raise more money. I do fund-raising, so I can understand that. But I just didn’t see how it applies on an everyday level. There’s a great little foundation here called The Rainbow Fund. I loved working with them. I was on their board and I helped; there’s like this small communities-of-color fund, very small. We don’t have a lot of money yet. That kind of work, I know, I see that money going to work every single day. But on the national level, I don’t see any visibility [for people of color].

Lillian perceives large national organizations such as HRC to be focused on raising money, “large money,” and “inaccessible” to people without a lot of money. She expresses more comfort working with a local organization in which she can see the impact of the money being spent. Lillian’s comments also suggest a linkage between class-based and race-based feelings of nonrepresentation, as she quickly transitions from explaining her feelings of being an outsider based on class (“I dressed up” but the HRC event felt “totally inaccessible”) to her con-cerns about lack of visibility for racial/ethnic minority issues among the large national movement organizations.

Patterns in feelings of representation by race/ethnicity are difficult to interpret because they appear to be influenced by the intersectionality (p.85) of identity elements. In a direct comparison of white and nonwhite respondents, whites are a bit less likely to feel represented by the movement than nonwhites. But we suspect this racial difference is mostly attributable to the fact that the transgender and bisexual subsamples in our sample are disproportionately white,7 and, as noted above, transgender and bisexual people often expressed frustration with the movement’s indifference toward their concerns. As shown in Figure 2.2, when whites who are neither bisexual nor transgender are compared to other groups, they have a relatively high sense of representation by the movement, with more than half of white non-transgender gays and lesbians saying they feel represented by the movement.

Respondents who did feel represented by the movement usually pointed to the fact that the movement was working on issues that are important to them or that the movement was an effective advocate for LGBT people in general. Eddie Ferguson is a fifty-two-year-old white upper-middle-class gay man who works in health care. Asked if he feels represented, he replied:

I think so. I’m going to have to say yeah. Even though it’s, like, hard to trust. I’ll trust them and their expertise, for them to work on it. There are fronts that, and likewise, that they would trust us on the medical front to like be doing things for the good of us all, on the other front. So, having that professional trust in each other, so yeah. I’m not going to judge what they do or, you know, and even if I didn’t agree, it’s like, I’m not sure who I would, who I would tell! [laughs] Other than getting involved with that front, you know. But yeah, I feel represented.

Drawing a comparison to his own work as a health professional, Ed-die regards the movement’s leaders as experts and professionals and states that he trusts their decisions about how to run the movement. Although only a minority of respondents gave such a positive response about their sense of representation, many of the people who gave mixed responses did acknowledge some ways in which the movement provides representation for themselves or for the broader community of LGBT people.

(p.86) Perceived and Preferred Priorities of the Movement

We asked respondents to identify the actual priorities of the movement today, and later asked them what issues they would prefer to see the movement treat as priorities. We refer to the former as the perceived priorities of the movement, and the latter as respondents’ preferred priorities. By far, marriage and family issues were most frequently mentioned as perceived priorities of the movement. More than half of the people in our sample said they thought marriage and family issues were a priority for the movement today. In fact, marriage and family issues were mentioned three times as often as any other perceived priority. The next most common perceived priority was the achievement of general equality for LGBT people. Other issues that were mentioned somewhat frequently included hate crimes legislation, nondiscrimination policies, and working on changing public perceptions of LGBT people.

The preferred priorities of respondents generally mirrored the perceived priorities, although respondents mentioned some issues they would like to see the movement address that were not seen as actual priorities of the current movement (see Figure 2.3). Marriage and family issues were identified as a preferred priority for the movement more than twice as often as any other issue, although the number of respondents who saw marriage and family issues as a current priority of the movement was somewhat higher than the number who said they thought it should be a priority. General equality, hate crimes legislation, employment discrimination, and working on changing public perceptions of LGBT people were also mentioned with some frequency. A few issues were mentioned more often as issues people would like to see the movement focus on than as issues the movement actually does focus on currently. Respondents identified the following specific issues as preferred priorities much more often than as perceived priorities: youth issues, transgender issues, visibility issues, and health care. Youth issues included the treatment of LGBT youth in schools and the handling of LGBT issues in school curricula, as well as the problem of youth homelessness. Health care was usually mentioned as an issue of access, although some also commented on the need to ensure that health-care providers are sensitive and informed on LGBT health concerns.


Same-Sex Marriage and Constituent Perceptions of the LGBT Rights Movement

Figure 2.3. Perceived and preferred movement priorities.

When respondents identified marriage and family issues as a perceived or preferred priority, marriage was the specific issue mentioned most frequently. Thomas Holte is a fifty-six-year-old white middle-class gay man. Thomas’s remarks reflect the views of respondents who identified marriage and family issues as one of the most important things for the movement to work on:

Well, I think as far as the marriage thing, that’s good because that’s important. I think the most important thing is to have the benefits like health care, pension, social security. Those are important things for people my age, so that’s what I kind of focus on, having had a problem with health care. It’s very difficult for (p.88) me to get it, even though the only thing I’ve had is carpal tunnel, and they won’t touch me. So, yeah, I think that’s a good thing to focus on. Equal benefits, and then with the marriage, even though I don’t have a partner where I would get those from, it’s still important, it really does make us equal.

So, even though Thomas would not directly benefit from legalized marriage in his current status as a single man, he views marriage as an important movement goal both for the material benefits it would bring (“health care, pension, social security”) and for the way it would “make us equal.” This idea that marriage or relationship rights would have broader equality effects was mentioned by a number of people who saw marriage and family issues as a priority for the movement.

Respondents also singled out several other specific family-related issues as priorities, including domestic partnership, adoption, and other parenting issues unrelated to adoption. Some respondents spoke vaguely about “marriage and family” or “family issues” without being specific. The only notable group differences that emerged on family issues were along genderidentity lines: only a handful of transgender respondents mentioned marriage and family issues as their preferred priorities for the movement. Overall, our findings suggest that respondents were generally sympathetic to the movement’s focus on marriage and family issues, but some would prefer a broader framing of these issues.

Opinions of the Movement’s Work on Family Issues

Because LGBT conceptions of family formed a major focus of our research, and because same-sex marriage has been such a visible issue for the LGBT rights movement over the last fifteen years, we specifically asked respondents for their views of the movement’s work on marriage and family issues. We asked whether they felt the movement was focus-ing too much or too little on these issues, and whether they liked the way the movement approached these issues, or if they felt a different approach would be more effective. The majority of respondents who offered an opinion about the movement’s handling of family issues had a positive view (see Figure 2.4). People who did not express an unqualified (p.89)

Same-Sex Marriage and Constituent Perceptions of the LGBT Rights Movement

Figure 2.4. Opinions of movement’s handling of marriage and family issues.

positive opinion mostly offered a mixed opinion rather than a negative opinion. (Only five respondents expressed a strictly negative opinion about the movement’s focus on marriage and family issues.)

Laura McIntosh, a twenty-nine-year-old mixed-race upper-middle-class lesbian, gave a response typical of people who had a positive opinion of the movement’s handling of family issues:

It should be the focus, because ultimately these are things that straight couples just do without a second thought. And the fact of the matter is that people want to have kids and they want to raise kids, and people want to get married and live their lives together. That we need to go through so many extra hoops just to do the same things other people do, for really no good reason. … Because kind of what it boils down to is, these are things that we can’t just go about doing, just because we’re gay. And that shouldn’t be.

Laura, like many other respondents, thinks that LGBT people should have access to the same family rights as straight people as a matter (p.90) of basic equality. Other people supportive of the movement’s work on family issues noted that many children are waiting to be adopted and that a lot of LGBT people would love to be parents but face many barriers to achieving this goal.

We did not see any clear differences by race/ethnicity or social class in people’s evaluation of the movement’s handling of marriage and family issues. The fact that working-class/poor respondents and racial/ethnic minority respondents expressed as much support for the movement’s work on family issues as other respondents contradicts the argument by queer commentators that marriage is an issue that is mainly desired by the most privileged segment of the LGBT population.

While respondents overall expressed a high level of support for the movement’s focus on marriage and family issues, many did offer critiques of the way the movement is handling that focus. Three different sets of critiques appeared with some frequency. First, people expressed concern that other important issues do not receive enough attention when family issues are highlighted. Second, people critiqued the movement’s strategy and tactics on family issues. Some respondents argued the movement should do more outreach in conservative areas, should take a more grassroots approach, should take a more incremental approach, should choose more obtainable goals, or should place more emphasis on education and changing basic attitudes toward LGBT people. Leslie Arnold, for example, is a thirty-five-year-old upper-middle-class white bisexual woman who believes the movement’s tactics should be more grassroots. Leslie commented:

I think they’re addressing it in a good way. I mean, you have, like, the political stuff where they’re pushing things through Congress and everything else, to get rights for certain things. But again, I think it needs to be kind of a ground-up process instead of jumping on top of it and shoving it in people’s faces almost. I think there needs to be a little bit more coming in through the back door, so to speak, where you’re almost sneak attacking them and educating them, even though they don’t know they’re being educated. You know what I mean? Instead of having the whole deal with people just waving their flags and flashing their (p.91) signs at political debates. It should be one of those things where there’s like a grassroots thing, I guess. You almost need to have a grassroots base. And I think that would help quite a bit.

A third critique of the movement’s handling of marriage and family issues was that the movement’s approach to family was too narrow, either because the movement does not work on behalf of all family types or because it is too focused on the specific goal of marriage. Some respondents saw this narrowness as part of a larger problem of the movement trying too hard to assert the normalcy of LGBT people and families, echoing queer critiques of the movement’s trend toward assimilation. Irene Bernhagen, for example, is a thirty-year-old middleclass mixed-race person who identifies as queer and genderqueer. Irene lives with a couple of men and is about to begin co-parenting with them. Expressing multiple concerns about the movement’s family focus, Irene said:

I think the more we try to convince people … that we’re just like everybody else, the more we limit ourselves in being able to … create space for all of the diversity in which we create families within our community. And I guess on a personal level I’m seeing that happen more and more as I think about going into a parenting relationship with two other people, where one of us is gonna not have legal rights to our kid because there’s no way of doing that. Because oh my god that would look like polygamy, you know, and the next step down from that is marrying a goat. [laughter] You know, like I guess that’s one of the things too. Like when I think about the argument, one of the things that I think is really dangerous, and I’ve been happy to see the advocates try to address this on some small level, is this idea that we need to fight the idea that queer people or gay people in particular asking for marriage rights means that we’re asking for rights around polyamory or polyamorous relationships. I think that that’s a slippery slope man, in terms [laughter] they’re suggesting it’s a slippery slope, but I also think it’s a slippery slope in the other direction because don’t start laying judgments on (p.92) people’s choices with regard to relationships. I don’t believe that monogamous relationships are the only type of relationships that are valid and justified in this society, or should be. And so I think that we as a community need to be really careful about where we’re laying our values or what we’re assuming everyone’s values are.

Like other respondents critical of the movement’s family focus, Irene is concerned that putting forward a normative focus on the monogamous couple pushes less conventional families and relationships to the margins. Irene argues that the movement should be pushing to expand the types of families that are recognized by society and in policy rather than trying to fit LGBT people into current social and legal frameworks. A number of other respondents articulated principled concerns about the pursuit of legal marriage. Some rejected marriage as a patriarchal institution, others viewed it as a mechanism of social control, and a few noted that legal marriage would create further inequality within the LGBT population by rewarding those who conformed to dominant society’s model of committed relationships.

Although we did not see clear differences in people’s views on the movement’s handling of family issues based on race or class, there were suggestive differences based on gender identity and self-identification as queer. Transgender people and people who self-identified as queer were somewhat more likely to express ambivalent views about the movement’s work on family issues. Some transgender respondents pointed out that the marriage issue was not particularly important to their community. We found a few noteworthy differences in the critiques levied by queer- and non-queer-identified respondents. Nonqueer respondents were more likely to offer tactical critiques of the movement’s handling of marriage and family issues, whereas queer-identified respondents were more likely to offer substantive critiques. Substantive critiques include particular concerns that the movement’s focus is not inclusive of all families; that the current focus affects only some segments of LGBT communities; or that there is too much focus on marriage.8

(p.93) Discussion

Our findings regarding constituent perceptions of the LGBT rights movement present a paradox. Only a minority of the respondents in our study feel unambiguously represented by the movement. Yet most respondents have a positive or mixed opinion of the movement rather than a predominantly negative view, and there is a fairly close alignment between the movement’s current priorities (as perceived by respondents) and what respondents think the movement should be working on. A few issues (youth issues, transgender issues, LGBT visibility, and health care) are mentioned as desirable areas of focus but are rarely or never identified as actual current priorities of the movement. But marriage and family issues are most often identified as the movement’s current focus and as a desirable focus for movement efforts. So why do most people in our sample feel the movement does not fully represent them, given that they both see the movement as doing a good job (or at least doing well in some areas) and perceive the movement to be focusing on the right issues?

This apparent paradox has a number of possible explanations. Our data indicate that even when people are supportive of the movement’s broad goals, they can be quite critical of its specific strategies and tactics. For example, many respondents support the movement’s focus on marriage and family concerns, but would rather see the movement approach these issues in a different way. Some respondents think the movement’s focus on marriage is too narrow, and a better strategy would be to seek recognition and protection for a broader range of family forms. Others fault the movement’s tactical choices: some respondents assert that the movement is moving too quickly on marriage, whereas others complain the approach is too incremental. We have the most detailed information on respondents’ views of the movement’s handling of marriage and family issues, but it is possible that people also have qualms about the way the movement is pursuing other desirable goals, such as reducing hate crimes or increasing nondiscrimination protections in the law. The sense of nonrepresentation may also reflect constituents’ perceptions that the LGBT rights movement is a distant and inaccessible (p.94) operation run by people who have little in common with the average constituent. Or, in some cases, the sense of nonrepresentation may simply reflect the fact that some constituents feel they do not need the movement’s help at this time (as is the case for some bisexuals currently in heterosexual relationships).

Regardless of its source, this paradox complicates the task of assessing whether some constituents experience secondary marginalization by the organized movement, and whether such marginalization is in part the result of the movement’s current focus on marriage, as queer critics contend. If we look narrowly at the question of whether the movement is working on the issues constituents care about, the answer appears to be mostly yes, with a few important exceptions. But if we define secondary marginalization broadly, to include constituents’ own sense of being marginalized by the movement, our data suggest some clear patterns of marginalization. We found that people’s sense of being represented by the mainstream LGBT movement was strongly patterned by social location, with transgender and genderqueer people, bisexual people, middle- or working-class people, and members of racial/ethnic minorities less likely to express an unambiguous sense of representation. Constituents’ perceptions may be an imperfect gauge of the actual activities and priorities of a social movement, and in fact many of our respondents confessed somewhat sheepishly that they were not well-informed about the movement’s current goals and strategies. But although it is theoretically possible that this subjective component of marginalization is unrelated to “actual” marginalization in terms of the movement’s distribution of its symbolic and material resources, we suspect there is some relationship between the subjective experience of marginalization and the actual priorities of the movement. This is especially clear in the case of transgender constituents, because there have been several well-publicized rifts among activists and organizations regarding how to handle transgender concerns.9

We also sought to examine whether any secondary marginalization we observed in our data appeared to be linked to the movement’s focus on marriage and family issues, and especially its pursuit of legal marriage. Recall that queer critics of the mainstream movement frequently allege that its approach to marriage and family is too narrow (p.95) and assimilationist, and that it represents the needs and interests of the most privileged segment of its constituency. On this point, our evidence is somewhat mixed. On the one hand, our respondents expressed a high level of support for the general idea of focusing on marriage and family issues: it was the most frequently mentioned set of issues among respondents’ preferred priorities for the movement, and only 5 of the 105 respondents expressed an unambiguously negative view of the movement’s handling of these issues. Further, we saw no clear differences based on race/ethnicity or social class in the respondents’ enthusiasm for the movement’s marriage and family work, which calls into question the queer critics’ assertion that marriage is a pet issue of the most privileged segment of the movement’s constituency. On the other hand, transgender and genderqueer respondents, as well as queer-identified respondents, were more likely than other respondents to express ambivalence about the movement’s handling of these issues by offering a mixed assessment rather than a mainly positive one. So, at least for the case of transgender, genderqueer, and queer-identified people, the subjective experience of marginalization may in part be linked to the movement’s work on marriage and family issues, and the pursuit of legal marriage in particular. Transgender constituents do not see the movement working on the issues that have highest priority for them, and to the degree that they view movement efforts as a zero-sum proposition, they may view the focus of time and resources on marriage as part of the reason transgender issues are neglected. It bears repeating that many respondents who had positive or mixed views of the movement’s work in this area offered critiques of the movement’s approach; some of the specific choices the movement has made in goals and tactics could be contributing to some constituents’ sense of marginaliza-tion or nonrepresentation, even when those constituents had a fairly positive take on the movement’s focus in this area.

Our data have some obvious limitations. Like most research on the LGBT population, our study by necessity relies on a nonrandom sample of voluntary respondents, so we cannot claim that our findings are representative of the LGBT population as a whole. In particular, as noted above, our sample appears to be more highly educated than the broader LGBT population. Since education level is positively related to (p.96) social and political liberalism, we can assume our sample is also more liberal than the overall LGBT population. In the case of LGBT people, more education probably also means more exposure to the queer intellectual perspective. If this is the case, and if marriage is viewed as a conservative or “non-queer” institution and movement goal, our findings may actually understate the level of constituent support for the movement’s pursuit of legal marriage. In other words, a more representative sample of the LGBT population would probably express higher levels of support for the movement’s marriage work.

Another limitation of our data is that our findings concerning the LGBT movement’s ability to represent the full range of its constituents are based on constituent perceptions rather than “objective” data regarding the movement’s choices and actions. In our view, this limitation is also a strength. Constituents may have inaccurate or incomplete perceptions of the movement’s activities, but when it comes to questions of political representation, we would argue that perception is itself an important reality. Part of what social movements deliver for their constituents is a sense of belonging and a sense that their concerns are finding political expression. For groups that experience high levels of social exclusion, this intangible benefit of movement representation may be as important as some of the more concrete benefits the movement seeks to deliver. Constituents who do not feel represented by a movement that speaks in their name are likely to have low investment in the movement’s success or failure, so their subjective experience of marginalization can have practical consequences for movement organizations, cohesion, and mobilization.

In summary, our findings are consistent with other research that has observed secondary marginalization in the LGBT rights movement, finding that transgender people, bisexuals, and people who articulate queer perspectives often feel marginalized by the mainstream LGBT rights movement (e.g., Smith 2007; Stone 2006, 2009; see also Phelan 2001). What we add to the past research is an explicit focus on marginalization from the perspective of movement constituents. In our view, this perceptual or subjective dimension of secondary marginalization has not received sufficient attention. We see evidence of subjective marginalization in the LGBT movement along dimensions of class, (p.97) race/ethnicity, sexual orientation (i.e., bisexuality), and gender identity (transgender and genderqueer). Constituents’ overall sense of representation by the mainstream LGBT movement is strongly patterned by social location. However, we found only limited evidence to support the idea that the movement’s current focus on marriage and family issues (and particularly on marriage qua marriage) is a significant source of subjective marginalization in the movement. Respondents were generally supportive of the movement’s focus on marriage and family issues, and there was little support for the idea that these issues were significantly more important to white, middle- or upper-middle-class constituents. However, the movement’s work on marriage in particular may play a part in the subjective marginalization of queer, transgender, and genderqueer constituents.

Our analysis points to several promising areas for future research. More investigation is necessary to flesh out our understanding of why some constituents report that they do not feel represented by the LGBT rights movement, even though they have a fairly positive opinion of the movement and there is strong overlap between the movement’s actual priorities and constituents’ preferred priorities. Comparative studies could illuminate whether this paradox is unique to this particular movement or is a common phenomenon across different social movements. What are the specific features of institutionalized social movement organizations that produce constituent perceptions of representation, movement effectiveness, and aligned priorities? For example, past research has documented women’s marginalization across a range of male-dominated movements (Brown 1992; Fonow 1998; J. Gamson 1997; McAdam 1992; Robnett 1997; Roth 1998; see Taylor 1999 for a discussion). Comparative analysis could address how much and in what ways the dynamics of gender marginalization in some movements resemble the secondary marginalization within the LGBT rights movement. Our research also raises the question of the influence of elite critiques of movements on constituents’ perceptions. What are the mediating factors that explain when elite critiques, such as the critiques leveled by antiassimilationist queer commentators, penetrate ordinary constituents’ consciousness?

More generally, how do constituent perceptions matter for movements? (p.98) Can well-established movement organizations thrive indefinitely when they are providing a strong sense of representation for only the more advantaged members of their claimed constituency? What is the relationship between internal legitimacy (constituents’ approval and sense of representation) and the external legitimacy and effectiveness of social movements? Answering such questions will require social movement scholars to widen their lens from the words and actions of social movement activists to include the concerns and perceptions of movement constituents.



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(1.) Strolovitch defines disadvantaged members as those who experience “intersectional marginalization,” meaning they incur social disadvantage based on other social characteristics in addition to the identity of the marginalized group in question. For example, low-income women experience intersectional marginalization within the marginalized group defined by low income, and racial minority women experience intersectional marginalization within the group defined by gender.

(2.) Cahill observes: “Access to the 1,138 federal protections and benefits of marriage would clearly help Black and Hispanic same-sex couples provide for their children, save money, buy a house, or prepare for retirement. The federal benefits and protections of marriage that are currently only available to married opposite sex couples include filing their taxes jointly, Social Security survivor benefits, Medicaid spenddown protections and the ability to take time off from work to care for a sick or disabled partner under the Family and Medical Leave Act. Over a lifetime, the inability to marry means that all same-sex couples, regardless of race or ethnicity, often pay more in taxes but are unable to benefit from government policies designed to help maintain strong and healthy families” (2009, 243–44; notes omitted).

(3.) Data on lesbian, gay, and bisexual educational attainment are available from several sources, including the General Social Survey (GSS), the National Health and Social Life Survey (NHSLS), and the U.S. Census. (The census data include only members of cohabiting same-sex couples.) Badgett (2001) combined NHSLS data from 1992 and GSS data from 1989 to 1991, 1993, and 1994 to analyze earnings of lesbian/bisexual women and gay/bisexual men (defined as those who had had at least as many same-sex sexual partners as opposite-sex partners in their lifetime). In this combined sample, 43 percent of the lesbian/bisexual women and 49 percent of the gay/bisexual men had a high school diploma or less, compared to only 6 percent of respondents in our sample. Black et al. (2000) analyzed 1990 Census data for men and women in cohabiting same-sex relationships and computed the following percentages for those with a high school diploma or less: 21 percent of men age 25–34 and 14 percent of men age 35–44; 20 percent of women age 25–34 and 15 percent of women age 35–44. We are not aware of any good data on the educational attainment of transgender people.

(4.) Our sample includes very few people who could be considered LGBT movement activists, as opposed to movement constituents. Although we did some recruiting through LGBT organizations and at the annual Pride festival, the large majority of our respondents did not hold leadership positions in LGBT organizations or participate in movement activities on a regular basis. We also feel confident that our sample mainly represents ordinary constituents rather than activists on the basis of some of the comments respondents made in interviews and focus groups. For example, many respondents were hesitant to render judgments about the LGBT movement because they felt uninformed about its activities, and most respondents did not feel well represented by the movement, as we discuss below.

(5.) All names are pseudonyms.

(6.) “Genderqueer” (or “gender queer”) is a fairly recent form of self-identification embraced by people who reject the male-female gender binary. The term can include, but is not limited to, transgender people. See Nestle, Howell, and Wilchins (2002) for a discussion.

(7.) Specifically, 77 percent of the transgender respondents are non-Latino whites, compared to 64 percent of the non-transgender respondents; and 84 percent of the bisexual respondents are non-Latino whites, compared to 59 percent of nonbisexual respondents.

(8.) Queer-identified respondents were disproportionately white and middle or upper middle class. Thus the overall lack of differences by race and class in support of the movement’s work on family issues may mask some noteworthy intersectional dynamics. Being in the dominant social categories of white and middle class may in fact make one more likely to support the movement’s work on family issues, but only if one does not self-identify as queer. Thus, ironically, the presence of queer respondents in the sample may make it more difficult to see the patterns predicted by queer critiques, namely that more socially privileged (white, middleclass) LGBT people will be more invested in the movement’s work on marriage and family issues. It is difficult to disentangle the significance of whiteness and queer self-identification on views of the movement’s marriage and family work, especially since very few nonwhites self-identified as queer.

(9.) For example, when the federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act was brought up for a vote in Congress in 2007, some politicians favored dropping the transgender protections from the bill to increase its chances of passage, and the Human Rights Campaign initially expressed openness to this possibility, but retreated in the face of an outcry from other movement organizations and from movement constituents.