From gay liberation to marriage equality: A political lesson to be learnt

European Journal of Political Theory 17 (3):280-299 (2018)
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Abstract

This article deals with the issue of resignification to advance a hypothesis on the way in which social practices are transformed with recourse to the language of institutions. It first discusses the transition from gay liberation to same-sex marriage equality by exploring the trajectory of homosexuals’ rights claims. The article continues by providing a theoretical interpretation of what brought this shift about, that is, what the author calls a movement ‘from the street to the court’: in both civil law and common law jurisdictions, legal means are increasingly being used by individuals and groups to make their claims audible to political institutions and to society at large. Then, an analysis is offered of the shape that social struggles take when socio-political claims are articulated with recourse to the legal language. The conclusion is that reliance on the law as a device to achieve political goals and construct same-sex group identity risks producing but a feeble resignification of the conventional heterosexual matrix. In light of that, a more effective way to defy this matrix is to create awareness of what is gained and what gets lost in becoming legally visible.

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