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Critique Humanities Law/Legal Nonfiction

Freedom in a Regulatory State?: Lawrence, Marriage, and Biopolitics

By Craig Willse and Dean Spade, 2005

This paper questions the status granted Lawrence v. Texas1 by LGBT2 legal organizations and advocates who have proclaimed the decision “Our Biggest Victory Yet!”3 In short, we seek to ask the fairly obvious yet still pertinent questions of: Who shares in this victory? What sort of victory is it? Interestingly, one way in which organizations and advocates have expressed the apparent significance of Lawrence is by comparing it to the legal successes of the civil rights movement, naming it “the gay community’s Brown v. Board of Education.”4 As Kenyon Farrow has pointed out, not only are current LGBT rights struggles not analogous to U.S. black civil rights movements, but the appropriation of this history by organizations that have failed to take on racial justice struggles evidences and widens divisions between LGBT movements5 and other, anti-racist social justice struggles.6 As will become clear, Farrow’s critique points to exactly what, for us, is lacking in both Lawrence and the analyses of those who celebrate it: a commitment to radical political change that challenges, rather than accommodates, the perpetuation of inequality.

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