Queer Alliances: Paradoxes and Power in the Formation of Rights-Based Movement Coalitions
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Since the early 2000s, inter- and intra-movement coalitions composed of organizations within the LGBTQ, labor, and immigrant rights movements have formed at the local level in Washington State and Arizona. However, coalition unity that culminated in wins like marriage equality came at a cost in both states. While the movements expanded and unified, they often simultaneously ossified around goals that matter to the most advantaged segments of their respective communities in each state context. The result is a paradox: coalitions do sometimes form within and across movements, promote enduring unity across seemingly divergent movements, and facilitate rights campaign wins. Yet, these coalitions can simultaneously reinforce hierarchical exclusions through the continued marginalization of issues that uproot conventional power dynamics, like police violence and economic inequality. This project seeks to examine and explain this paradox. How do we explain coalitions that are simultaneously inclusive and exclusive? I argue that the construction of a common political movement narratives and a shared core of opponents can help to explain this paradox. The development of shared political movement narratives and common opponents can expand movements in some contexts. However, the episodic nature of rights-based campaigns can simultaneously contain and undermine movement expansion, reinforcing movement divisions based on race, gender, and class. In order to demonstrate how this paradox occurs, I employed a multi-method study that encompasses semi-structured, in-depth interviews conducted in Washington State and Arizona and archival research. Interviews were conducted with a broad sample of coalition players in each state, including: organization leaders, advocates, community workers, and politicians involved in LGBTQ, labor, and immigrant coalition formation. Unlike previous studies, which study national organizations or single movements, this study focuses on grassroots, coalition-based mobilization across and within two movements. In doing so, this project examines the extent to which inter- and intra-movement coalitions formed to win rights or thwart rights losses represent and serve intersectional and more marginalized communities – groups in political movements that are often absent within contemporary law and social change, legal mobilization, and political movements scholarship.
- Political science