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How the Religious Right Shaped Lesbian and Gay Activism

2008
Author:

Tina Fetner

How the Religious Right Shaped Lesbian and Gay Activism

An unexpected analysis of the battle between opposing activist movements

In this accessible and grounded work, Tina Fetner uncovers a complex relationship between the gay rights and religious right movements. She shows how gay activists and the religious right have established a symbiotic relationship in which each side significantly affects the development of its counterpart, demonstrating how the contentious relationship between the two movements challenges assumptions about how social movements are shaped by their rivals.

Though social movement scholars have long recognized the importance of movement/countermovement dynamics in gay and lesbian rights activism, there have been few empirical studies available. How the Religious Right Shaped Lesbian and Gay Activism addresses this neglect and is both timely and significant.

Suzanne Staggenborg, author of Social Movements

While gay rights are on the national agenda now, activists have spent decades fighting for their platform, seeing themselves as David against the religious right’s Goliath. At the same time, the religious right has continuously and effectively countered the endeavors of lesbian and gay activists, working to repeal many of the laws prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation and to progress a constitutional amendment “protecting” marriage.

In this accessible and grounded work, Tina Fetner uncovers a remarkably complex relationship between the two movements—one that transcends political rivalry. Fetner shows how gay activists and the religious right have established in effect a symbiotic relationship in which each side very much affects the development of its counterpart. As lesbian and gay activists demand an end to prejudice, inclusion in marriage, the right to serve in the military, and full citizenship regardless of sexual orientation, the religious right has responded with antigay planks in Republican party platforms and the blocking of social and political change efforts. Fetner examines how the lesbian and gay movement reacts to opposition by changing rhetoric, tone, and tactics and reveals how this connection has influenced—and made more successful—the evolution of gay activism in the United States.

Fetner addresses debates that lie at the center of the culture wars and, ultimately, she demonstrates how the contentious relationship between gay and lesbian rights activists and the religious right—a dynamic that is surprisingly necessary to both—challenges assumptions about how social movements are significantly shaped by their rivals.

How the Religious Right Shaped Lesbian and Gay Activism

Tina Fetner is assistant professor of sociology at McMaster University.

How the Religious Right Shaped Lesbian and Gay Activism

Though social movement scholars have long recognized the importance of movement/countermovement dynamics in gay and lesbian rights activism, there have been few empirical studies available. How the Religious Right Shaped Lesbian and Gay Activism addresses this neglect and is both timely and significant.

Suzanne Staggenborg, author of Social Movements

In this groundbreaking book, Fetner builds on current social movement theory by applying research findings to make sense out of the opposing movement ‘dance’ over a sustained period of time. In addition to contributing new findings from her data collection and analysis, Fetner pulls together numerous relevant studies to look at the opposing movement contest in a more comprehensive manner. This is a very accessible, highly engaging, and well-organized book. Social movement and LGBT scholars, undergraduate and graduate students as well as historians and activists would benefit from reading this book. This book is long overdue. Kudos to Tina Fetner for doing it so thoroughly and with such finesse.

Mobilization

Fetner has given us an excellent history of both the GLBT rights movement and the rise of the religious right. Her chronological look at each movement’s victories and setbacks makes for ease of reading while her academic style gives us great documentation of it all. Academics and non-academics should find this fascinating reading.

OutSmart

Fetner’s book is useful, clear, and concise. It takes the study of movements and counter-movements to the next stage by effectively pairing the histories of two opposing movements, showing their resonances, and analyzing points of influence.

The Journal of Politics and Religion

The book is, on the whole, quite accessible and, because it relies upon and summaries secondary studies, can serve a convenient source of information for scholars unfamiliar with the events and protagonists in new-right politics.

Social Movement Studies