Alexandria Digital Research Library

Narrative mobilization in Obergefell v. Hodges : mapping the discursive politics of marriage as a fundamental right

Kulick, Alex
Degree Grantor:
University of California, Santa Barbara. Sociology
Degree Supervisor:
Verta Taylor and John Mohr
Place of Publication:
[Santa Barbara, Calif.]
University of California, Santa Barbara
Creation Date:
Issued Date:
Law, LGBTQ studies, and Sociology
Social movements
Same sex marriage
Mixed methods
Legal mobilization
Dissertations, Academic and Online resources
M.A.--University of California, Santa Barbara, 2016

Scholars of contemporary social movements have highlighted the need to understand dynamic processes of social change across multi-sited arrangements of power. In particular, analysis of social movement framing processes work to explain the role of social meanings in the relationships among movement actors and elite decision-makers. In this thesis, I query how a mixed-methods approach to text analysis enables a model of the mutual constitution between collective identities and movement frames as embedded standpoints that mobilize narrative arguments in a legal context. Specifically, I undertook a case study of Obergefell v. Hodges to model and interpret the range of contentious meanings deployed relative to the full legalization of same-sex marriage in the United States. The discursive fields that emerge in this case reflect the production of competing narratives between and among stances on same-sex marriage that consolidate sexual, religious, racial, and gender anxieties by deferring to the dynamics of social reproduction through the family.

Amicus briefs were used by legal specialists and political elites as well as professionalized social movement organizations working to influence both the direction and form of the Court's decision. Among those supportive of same-sex marriage, brief signers provided political context and scientific evidence to make legible the gay and lesbian families who petitioned the Court for legal recognition of their marriages. These briefs describe and demonstrate gay and lesbian couples as embedded within networks of supportive friends and allies. These families represent love as an organizing logic of kinship that aligns free-choice autonomy with enduring citizenship bonds. Amici arguing against legalization did so on procedural grounds, by emphasizing the legal-political processes of judicial review and federal authority over the states. Brief signers shored up support for the state's interest in promoting heterosexuality by shifting away from notions of biological procreation to the reproduction of gendered subjects. This constrained vision of gender diversity resonated with briefs arguing for the protection of religious freedom among believers who morally object to participating in same-sex marriages. Together, these amicus briefs represent movement claims and the translation of discourse around marriage equality into the legal context. And further, these claims are made legally powerful through their efficacy in influencing the 5-4 decision issued by the Court. The Obergefell decision established marriage as a fundamental right for gay and lesbian couples by positioning gay/lesbian families and religious objectors as opposing and equivalent populations of aggrieved minorities. The maneuvers of the Court deploy a modality of regulatory governance based on negative difference, incorporating sexual-religious conflict into the management of neoliberal multiculturalism.

Physical Description:
1 online resource (44 pages)
UCSB electronic theses and dissertations
Catalog System Number:
Inc.icon only.dark In Copyright
Copyright Holder:
Alex Kulick
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