Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)


Sociology, Social Work, and Anthropology

Committee Chair(s)

Douglas Jackson-Smith


Douglas Jackson-Smith


E. Helen Berry


Leon Anderson


The majority of sociological research on social movement tactics and strategies has focused on how theories of resource mobilization and dynamic political opportunities affect the innovation of tactics and types of tactics used. Relatively few studies have explored the roles of institutional, cultural, and political contexts in determining why social movement leaders choose certain tactics. This research study examines lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) social movement organizations (SMO) that are pursuing institutional advocacy. Specifically, it is a comparative case study of how tactics of LGBT organizations in Minnesota and Utah are affected by contested and conservative political landscapes, respectively. The concept of political landscapes was developed and includes three core components: the institutional structure of the political system, the sociocultural context, and dynamic political opportunities. Data was collected from 16 semi-structured interviews of LGBT SMO leaders. Secondary data was also collected by examining public records, newspapers, magazines, and organizational websites. The results from this study suggest that dynamic political opportunities are embedded in the larger institutional and sociocultural contexts. In Minnesota, the combination of a more open and competitive political system and a more diverse Christian presence and ethnically diverse urban areas have resulted in the use of tactics that are much more open and direct. Specifically, LGBT SMOs in Minnesota use tactics such as only endorsing candidates publicly, focusing on building a broad bipartisan base of sponsors for LGBT legislation, working with other SMOs to create large coalitions, using a frame that is all-encompassing of movement goals, and building a large, grassroots movement. By contrast, the closed and conservative political system and a dominant religion in Utah have resulted in more private, compromising, and behind-the-scenes tactics. LGBT SMOs in Utah tactics include using both public and private political endorsements, good-cop bad-cop organizations, delegate trainings, and frame alignment with the conservative culture.




This work made publicly available electronically on July 29, 2012.

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