Date of Completion


Document Type

Honors College Thesis


Political Science

First Advisor

Alec Ewald, PhD.


marriage equality, backlash, litigation, politics, law


Until recently, the campaign for marriage equality in the United States would win a victory in court, only to see that victory erased or seriously imperiled in the legislatures or in popular referenda and initiatives. In scholarly literature, this is referred to as “backlash.” In the past few years the advocates for marriage equality have won a string of victories both in courts and in legislatures, challenging the “backlash hypothesis,” which argues litigation cannot successfully advance reform goals. While there has been a lot of research into the marriage equality movement, there has been little that focuses on the strategies the attorneys in that movement used to both win victories in court and protect those victories from political backlash. Drawing on interviews with many of the most important attorneys in the organizations associated with the marriage equality movement, this thesis analyses the movement’s internalization of the backlash hypothesis and the strategies implemented to win legal victories and protect them in the political sphere. This thesis concludes that attorneys working in organizations dedicated to the marriage equality movement have internalized the backlash hypothesis and have turned all aspects of litigation into political tools.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.