Libby Adler

Document Type



The Gay Agenda argues that the current gay rights agenda has been overly determined by the culture war and calls for a deliberate step outside of culture war discourse in order to see law reform possibilities that have largely been obscured. When anti-gay forces speak in terms of traditional family values, the paper observes, pro-gay rejoinders tend to come in the form of rights claims accompanied by rhetorical efforts to depict the gay family as morally indistinct from an idealized version of the heterosexual family (i.e., monogamous, bourgeois, and more about love than sex). These dual strategies of rights - especially equality - and normalization have serious costs that have gone under-recognized by the architects of the contemporary gay rights movement. Much of the paper is dedicated to illuminating those costs. The remainder of the paper proposes concrete possibilities for reconstructing a law reform agenda. This part draws on the insights of American Legal Realism, Critical Legal Theory and Queer Theory, which have something real and valuable to offer the gay rights movement - if what participants in that movement want is to combat sexual moralism and to ameliorate the full range of hardships faced by persons associated with marginal sexual or gender identities or practices. The proposed agenda described in this part is less consumed with achieving formal equality between gay and straight people and more interested in using law to create the best possible conditions against which a broad array of people can make choices about how to organize their erotic and domestic lives.

Date of Authorship for this Version



Gay rights, Equality, Queer theory, American legal realism, critical legal theory, Sexuality and the Law

Original Citation

Originally published in Michigan Journal of Gender & Law, Vol. 16, No. 1, pp. 147-216, 2009.