Refulgent respectability: A social movement analysis of gay conservatives

Edward Sean Gallagher, Fordham University


Extant treatments of both the conservative and the gay and lesbian movements have ignored the role of gay conservatives in both movements. Through the use of archival and print data, the analysis presented here takes the gay and lesbian movement as a cultural object, the meaning of which is contested by various organizations within a multi-organizational sphere. This research asks from where gay conservatives emerged organizationally; how gay conservatives construct their political identities, given the antipathy between conservatives and gays; and how gay conservatives frame the important issues raised by the gay and lesbian movement. From the archives of the Log Cabin Republicans (LCR), a history of the organization is constructed, with special attention to presidential election years. This history provides a general context for a framing analysis, based on the writings of gay conservatives which have constituted the Independent Gay Forum as well as LCR press releases and media statements. The framing analysis attends to the issues of hate crimes legislation, employment non-discrimination legislation, and gays in the military. Gay conservatives are shown to have been engaged in a discursive project which attempts to move gays from the periphery of society to its sacred center, by shifting the issue of violence toward gays to one of gun rights; non-discrimination, to tax policy; and support for a muscular foreign policy. In doing so, gay conservatives emphasize 'civic responsibility' rather than 'rights' and 'victimization.' As social movement actors with legitimate claims to an authentic gay identity, gay conservatives strategically highlight their gay identities in frame disputes with liberal and left gay organizations, while simultaneously trumpeting their conservative identities in frame disputes with conservative organizations. In juggling these seemingly oppositional identities, gay conservatives are found to strongly support assimilationist moves for the gay and lesbian movement while opening up political space within the Republican Party for gay claims to equality in civic life. While holding the queer faction of the gay and lesbian movement in disdain, gay conservatives are, instead, queering 'Republican.'

Subject Area

GLBT Studies|Political science|Social structure

Recommended Citation

Gallagher, Edward Sean, "Refulgent respectability: A social movement analysis of gay conservatives" (2012). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3544396.