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

  • Author / Creator
    DeGagne, Alexa
  • 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.

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  • Graduation date
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
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    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.
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  • Institution
    University of Alberta
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  • Department
  • Supervisor / co-supervisor and their department(s)
  • Examining committee members and their departments
    • Bell, Shannon (Political Science, York University)
    • Harder, Lois (Political Science)
    • Smith, Malinda (Political Science)
    • Davidson, Judy (Faculty of Physical Education and Recreation)