Publication Date

Fall 7-1-2013


Starting in February 2004, in the aftermath of San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsoms authorization of city clerks to issue marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples, same-sex marriage and LGBT families moved to the center of American politics. In the same month New Mexico succeeded in making its own mark on the national debate over same-sex marriage as Victoria Dunlap, the Sandoval County clerk, issued marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples. The resulting sixty-four same-sex marriages incited New Mexico gay and lesbian activism around the issue of marriage and launched civil rights and moral debates that dominated the New Mexico legislature, and which continue to drive local politics around marriage. This dissertation is based on five years of anthropological field research (2005-2010) with New Mexico and national advocacy groups; with the New Mexico legislative process; and with gay, lesbian, and transgender couples and families. The research considers how lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender activists and couples articulate an LGBT group identity and construct political subjectivities through discourses and images about marriage and family and democratic citizenship. This dissertation argues that the creation of LGBT political subjects and public articulations of LGBT family identities were framed through three different social spheres: 1. dominant heteronormative public sphere in which kinship was (re)conceptualized and specific identities were publically disseminated; 2. An LGBT public sphere in which group identities have formed and have been internally challenged; and 3. The private (home) sphere where people's identities have been shaped by individual experiences and family experiences. This dissertation assesses legislative testimonies, LGBT community forums and town hall meetings, LGBT organization's strategies, and same-sex couples' depictions and discourses about their lives as families. In their attempt to mobilize LGBT support for domestic partnership legislation, and pass domestic partner rights legislation, activists and same-sex couples created specific kinds of sexual subjects rooted in gendered notions of citizenship and family. Yet, subjectivity is also shaped and transformed through the private (individual and familial) sphere. While LGBT public discourses about same-sex marriage have over the years become an acceptable narrative through which to ask for social and legal recognition, in their private lives same-sex couples continue to have to generate spaces from which to negotiate identity and subjectivity and through which they simultaneously appropriate and challenge heteronormative and neoliberal frameworks of the family. At each level of social and political engagement, this research examines how kinship becomes deeply implicated in the realm of political symbolism, in democratic constructs of citizenship and belonging, and in LGBT group and identity construction.'


sexuality, same-sex marriage, political subjectivity, family, community, citizenship

Project Sponsors

Hibben Doctoral Research Award Committee, the Alfonso Ortiz Center for Intercultural Studies Public Policy Fellowship Committee, the Feminist Research Institute, the Graduate Fellowship Committee, the Graduate Research Development Fellowship Board, the Student Research Allocation Committee, and the Department of Anthropology at the University of New Mexico.

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First Advisor

Field, Les

First Committee Member (Chair)

Lamphere, Louise

Second Committee Member

Schwerin, Karl

Third Committee Member

Smith, Lindsay

Fourth Committee Member

Lewin, Ellen

Included in

Anthropology Commons