Module 15: Narrative (Counter-)Mobilizations in U.S. Same-Sex Marriage Struggle

Faculty Contact: John Mohr

Research Areas:

Abstract: Beginning in the early 1990s, same-sex marriage has been a major area of policy change in the United States. In the first stage, states and the federal government mobilized to explicitly codify marriage as a heterosexual institution, i.e., as between one man and one woman. However, as a single-issue “marriage equality” movement coalesced, drawing leadership and resources from the LGBT and other movements, the tides began to shift. Seemingly just as quickly as heterosexual marriage laws spread, they began to be overturned, resulting in the full legalization of same-sex marriage through the Obergefell v. Hodges Supreme Court decision.

Scholars of same-sex marriage have pointed to the dynamic relationships between public opinion and legal change. These mutually interacting processes of social change operate largely through discursive practices, which are mobilized through official and non-official texts. This module utilizes social movement theory of framing, narratives, cultural anchors, and diffraction to develop a network model of meanings deployed in the most recent same-sex marriage case.

Data and Method

Data are publicly available documents associated with the Obergefell case. The focus on this single legal case allows for a depth of analysis of the “winning” and “losing” forms mobilized by marriage equality advocates and conservative opponents. Specifically, full text documents of the 5-4 decision, as well as the dissents, and the 149 amicus briefs submitted for the case will be collected.

Data analysis for this module focuses on the creation of network model of the documents, utilizing topic modeling. There are two primary aims:

  • The first is to provide an illustrative mapping of the discursive field of contention that emerges in this case. Network visualizations and measures of centrality and brokerage will be utilized to investigate the structure of the network.
  • The second is to utilize ego-centric network methods to understand the relationship between the amicus briefs (i.e., movement actors) and the SCOTUS decision (i.e., decision makers).

Module Overview

  • Reviewing tools and methods of topic modeling to identify and specify model for network creation
  • Building a network model of documents, analyzing and visualizing
  • Reviewing and applying related literature on ego-centric networks

Active quarters:

  • Winter 2016, Alex Kulick