Political Institutions and LGBTQ Activism in Comparative Perspective

Authored by: Miriam Smith

The Ashgate Research Companion to Lesbian and Gay Activism

Print publication date:  August  2015
Online publication date:  March  2016

Print ISBN: 9781409457091
eBook ISBN: 9781315613147
Adobe ISBN: 9781317042914


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LGBTQ rights are often presented as cultural battles over identity. Whether it is queer theorists who consider sexuality and gender as socially constructed categories (Sedgwick 2008) or mainstream political scientists who categorize gay rights along with gambling and abortion as “morality politics” (Mooney 1999), there has been a general reluctance to draw on social science theories to understand LGBTQ political mobilization or to ask what lessons LGBTQ political mobilization might hold for the development of theories of public policy or social movements. In recent years, however, sociologists and political scientists have started to develop a field of LGBTQ studies that draws on general political science and sociological theories and to undertake new forms of empirical research, both qualitative and quantitative, that aim to explain the rise of LGBTQ social movements and their successes and failures (Smith 2008). Although long shunted to the sidelines of the discipline of comparative politics, a new generation of scholars has taken up the task of explaining how LGBTQ movements differ across nation states and why some succeed while others fail (Paternotte, Tremblay and Johnson 2011: 3–7). In short, LGBTQ politics is increasingly understood in terms of structural political forces and as something to be explained using the tools of social science, rather than a normative, philosophical topic or a solely cultural question of identity or morality.

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