Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

“Blind to certain truths”: Social movement narratives, the Supreme Court, and cultural change
by Maddox, Gregory, Ph.D., Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, 2012, 257; 3514418
Abstract (Summary)

Stories abound within our culture, and rarely are stories bestowed more legitimacy than within the courts. Social "facts" might be established within the legal forum, but nonetheless connect to everyday life. Research in social movements and judicial politics is thus becoming increasingly useful as social movement organizations increasingly compete before the Court to effect cultural change through the reification of their stories.

Lesbian, gay and bisexuals form one group of storytellers whose "collective stories" are told. It is this set of stories that this paper investigates, following the "narrative turn" in sociology to analyze LGB social movement narratives in the empirical setting of the Supreme Court. I present the findings of my content analysis of the amicus curiae, or "friend of the Court," briefs and Court opinions in the Bowers v. Hardwick and Lawrence and Garner v. Texas cases, two of the most significant LGB rights cases, covering a span of nearly twenty years. Despite virtually identical casefacts, the Court handed down differing decisions, first ruling against the social movement before later reversing its decision. This research assesses how the narrative voices in the cases changed within the discourse of the Court, and how these collective narratives resonated within a changing culture.

First, I assess how LGB social movement organizations, their allies, and countermovement organizations changed their framings and frame alignment processes, how they changed their emotions work and rhetoric, and how these changes were evidence of organizations' identity work processes during the interim between cases.

Next, I assess changes in framings and frame alignment processes and emotions work and rhetoric within the opinions handed down by the Court. This serves two purposes: it allows for a comparison of organizational frame resonance with the Court, and also allows analysis of the decisions' resonance within the larger culture.

Analysis is also made of the symbolic meanings found within the opinions of the Court in both cases. This analysis shows that LGB social movement and countermovement organizations operate within a cultural code of sexuality . Narratives are useful in observing how norms within this cultural code are enforced, strengthened, or changed by negotiation and legitimization before the Court.

Consequently, this research contributes not only to our understandings of cultural change, but also to social movement theory, especially of identity work processes, to the field of social psychology, to the sociology of sexualities, and to the sociology of emotions and emotions work.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Dunn, Jennifer L.
Commitee: Grant, Tobin, Hatcher, Laura, Sherkat, Darren, Wienke, Christopher
School: Southern Illinois University at Carbondale
Department: Sociology
School Location: United States -- Illinois
Source: DAI-A 73/11(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: GLBT Studies, Organizational behavior
Keywords: Cultural change, Lesbian and gay rights, Social movements, U.S. Supreme Court, United States
Publication Number: 3514418
ISBN: 978-1-267-45221-4
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