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Investigating Citizenship, Sexuality and the Same-Sex Marriage fight in California’s Proposition 8 Open Access


Other title
gay and lesbian rights
Proposition 8
same-sex marriage
marriage law
social conservatism
queer theory
social movements
sexuality politics
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
DeGagne, Alexa
Supervisor and department
Brodie, Janine (Political Science)
Examining committee member and department
Smith, Malinda (Political Science)
Harder, Lois (Political Science)
Bell, Shannon (Political Science, York University)
Davidson, Judy (Faculty of Physical Education and Recreation)
Department of Political Science

Date accepted
Graduation date
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
My doctoral dissertation examines the discursive strategies of ten organizations engaged in the 2008-2013 same-sex marriage battle of Proposition 8 in California. In November 2008 Californians voted to ban same-sex marriage under the state constitution through Proposition 8. Based on a queer analysis, my dissertation examines why and how same-sex marriage has become a pivot point in debates about larger political issues, including the regulation of sexualities, the criteria for citizenship, the boundaries of state authority, and the nature of social justice. Proposition 8 serves as an influential case study to assess the current political goals of the American gay and lesbian movement, the influence and power of social conservatives in determining the sexualized nature of citizenship, and the implications of allocating rights on the basis of family form, sexuality and sexual conduct. I examine the political discourses of ten organizations – four social conservative organizations, and six mainstream gay, lesbian and bisexual (LGB) organizations – which rallied for and against Proposition 8 as it progressed through referendum and the courts as Perry et. al. v. Schwarzenegger. To conduct the discourse analysis, I use a triangulation of methods, including the public documents of the ten organizations; elite interviews with leaders of the mainstream LGB organizations; and the court proceedings from the Perry et. al. v. Schwarzenegger hearings. I analyze these documents, asking three central questions. First, how did the Proposition 8 organizations frame their discursive arguments in terms of larger citizenship issues including the legitimating of citizens, the boundaries of state authority, and the nature of social justice? Second, how did the Proposition 8 organizations’ discourses reproduce or resist dominant heteronormal, and specifically social conservative, definitions of legitimate citizens, the boundaries of state authority, and the nature of social justice in their attempts to gain social and political inclusions and rights through same-sex marriage? Third, what are the implications of reproducing or resisting, particular heteronormal, social conservative, discourses in relation LGBTQ equality debates? I argue that through their bid to win same-sex marriage, the mainstream LGB organizations produced heteronormal and exclusionary discourses. As a result, the mainstream LGB organizations created and promoted a limited project of equality that only served the ends of particular kinds of heteronormative homosexual citizens.
Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. Where the thesis is converted to, or otherwise made available in digital form, the University of Alberta will advise potential users of the thesis of these terms. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis and, except as herein before provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.
Citation for previous publication
“Queer Bedfellows of Proposition 8: Adopting Social Conservative and Neoliberal Political Rationalities in California’s Same-Sex Marriage Fight,” in Studies in Social Justice 7(1): 107-124.

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