After reading Bernstein’s piece regarding the lesbian and gay movement in various states, I decided to analyze the movement in Louisiana, a state that recently upheld the gay marriage ban in the case of Robicheaux, et al v. Caldwell, et al. Parts of Judge Feldman’s decision emphasized the newness of the idea of same sex marriage. His decision states that it was “nonexistent and even inconceivable until very recently” (McGough), an important point to remember in understanding the political atmosphere surrounding the same-sex movement in Louisiana. This loss for same-sex marriage and the lesbian and gay movement follows many wins around the nation, making the movement an interesting one to analyze in terms of potential reasons for failure.
Bernstein characterizes movements based on the structure of their social organizations, the movement’s access to the polity, and the opposition facing it. These characteristics help to better understand the identity of a movement and the probability that it will attempt to celebrate or suppress its differences from the majority. I characterize the same-sex marriage movement in Louisiana as one that is inclusive, with little access to the polity and facing strong opposition. These characteristics, combined with the movement’s attempt to suppress differences between the gay minority and the straight majority in a conservative state may have reduced the movement’s chance of success.
Just as Laura Meadows focused on the organization Protect ALL NC Families, I will focus on a same-sex rights organization in Louisiana. I found Equality Louisiana to be the most prominent organization of its kind in the state.
This organization is inclusive in nature as it was formed as a way to coordinate smaller, more localized same-sex efforts across the state, mobilizing the movement into one large group with a statewide impact. While this organization is an attempt to mobilize similar efforts, the entity has only existed since 2011, when leadership of local organizations joined together to create the statewide organization. Each of these organizations has their own mission and local identity that are being combined to create Equality Louisiana. While all organizations have similar goals of same-sex rights in the states, the collective identity of Equality Louisiana is fairly immature.
Equality Louisiana also lacks access to the polity. In 2013, almost all eight bills that addressed issues surrounding the gay and lesbian community (employment protections, etc.) died in committees (Equality Louisiana). Without any attempt by elected officials to achieve movement goals, Equality Louisiana’s access to the polity is limited.
Finally, a strong opposition to Equality Louisiana exists in the state. Not only is there organized opposition from the Louisiana Family Forum, a prominent group statewide that is dedicated to maintaining traditional families, public opinion is largely against same-sex rights. “Only 28% of voters in the state think it [same-sex marriage] should be allowed compared to 62% who think it should be illegal” (Public Policy Polling).
The strategies employed by Equality Louisiana largely surround the idea of sameness, suppressing the differences between the minority gay population and the majority straight population. Campaigns declare that “love is love” and “love makes a family”, reminding citizens that love is the same in all relationships, regardless of sexual preferences. These campaigns use photos of same-sex couples in every day life (i.e. at the beach, visiting the aquarium, with their families, etc.). The theatrical tactics described by Bernstein in New York are not part of Equality Louisiana’s campaign. Instead, they highlight the normalcy and sameness of the minority.
With a better understanding of the same-sex rights movement in Louisiana, I looked to Bernstein for suggestions about suppression versus celebration of differences. She advises that if a movement “lacks both political access and organizational infrastructure or collective identity, then an emphasis on differences will be needed to build solidarity and mobilize a constituency,” (Bernstein, 541). Under her argument, Equality Louisiana and the same-sex movement will need to change strategy from suppression of differences to a celebration of them. In the conservative state, it is possible that the identity of the same-sex movement is too immature to suppress differences and first needs to establish a collective identity.
Although the movement did not sway the judge’s decision in upholding the ban on gay marriage in the state, the movement seems to have had some effect on public opinion. While popular opinion is still against same-sex marriage, “54% of voters favor at least civil unions for same sex couples, with only 43% opposed to any sort of recognition at all,” (Public Policy Polling). This speaks to Laura Meadows’ point of “losing forward”, meaning that while the movement for same-sex marriage may have failed, there are some positive outcomes that leave hope within the movement.
Bernstein, Mary. “Celebration and Suppression: The Strategic Uses of Identity by the Lesbian and Gay Movement.” Chicago Journals 103.3 (1997): 535-65. JSTOR. Web. 9 Sept. 2014.
“Louisiana Miscellany.” ‘Public Policy Polling’ 18 Feb. 2014. Web. 09 Sept. 2014.
McGough, Michael. “Gay Marriage Proves Just Too Modern for Judge in Louisiana Case.” Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles Times, 8 Sept. 2014. Web. 12 Sept. 2014.
“Missed Opportunities – Collective Action: A Report on the 2014 Louisiana Legislative Session.” Equality Louisiana. Web. 09 Sept. 2014.