Elevate Difference

Same Sex, Different Politics: Success and Failure in the Struggles Over Gay Rights

Gary Mucciaroni’s Same Sex, Different Politics offers a useful, though ultimately limited, account of the LGBT rights movement. Trained as a political scientist, Mucciaroni’s interests lie in the varying degrees of success and failure over LGBT public policy issues. He questions why certain policy issues (such as adoption) fare better than others (most notably marriage equality). Unlike studies that focus on individual policy areas, Mucciaroni’s text is an attempt to comparatively analyze multiple policy struggles in order to arrive at broad conclusions about the current state of the LGBT movement, as well as to identify new directions/methods with which to approach LGBT activism. As such, Mucciaroni charts six individual policy issues alongside and in relation to each other: military service, homosexual conduct and sodomy laws, adoption, marriage and partnership, hate crime legislation, and civil rights.

Using a variety of social science resources and extensive quantitative data, Mucciaroni deftly charts the contradictions that emerge through the comparative analysis of individual policy concerns. For example, he identifies an inherent disconnect in (seemingly) widespread public support for anti-discrimination legislation in venues like employment and housing, but stronger opposition to marriage equality and military service.

While Mucciaroni’s text is definitely groundbreaking in terms of its comparative methodological approach, its circumscribed focus on public policy, juridical process, and legislation disallows any discussion of the larger cultural, social, and ideological controversies that underlie public policy initiatives. What emerges is an argument that continually and uncritically reifies the legal system as the primary venue for bringing about social change, with little acknowledgement of the cultural work that necessarily needs to occur alongside policy struggles. Indeed, for a book that claims to concern itself with the material realities of family, discrimination, sex, and relationships, Same Sex, Different Politics remains utterly disconnected from the communities it seeks to represent.

Written by: Ashvin R. Kini, May 1st 2009