Who's "in" and who's "out": State fragmentation and the struggle over gay rights, 1974-1999

Regina Werum, Bill Winders

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


We examine how state fragmentation has shaped tactical choices of gay rights adversaries between 1974 and 1999. Which political channels have both sides used to advance their goals? Have their tactics changed over time? Specifically, we analyze how they have used three dimensions of the state: (1) judiciary, getting courts to extend or repeal existing legislation; (2) legislative, passing ordinances, laws, executive orders; and (3) popular support, using ballot initiatives and referenda. These dimensions are further fragmented by level of government: federal, state, and local. We find that, despite crucial tactical innovations compared to the 1960s, both adversaries continue to focus on classic civil rights issues. Our analyses suggest that gay rights opponents increasingly find success through ballot initiatives, a venue based on popular support rather than access to central government arenas. In contrast, gay rights proponents increasingly succeed when using central governmental channels (legislatures, courts), which remain contested. These findings highlight the limits of central concepts rooted in the resource mobilization and state literatures, i.e., the distinction between insiders and outsiders to the polity and the social movement/countermovement debate.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)386-410
Number of pages25
JournalSocial Problems
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 2001
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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