Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 2014


Same-sex marriage


American Politics | Gender and Sexuality | Political Theory | Politics and Social Change | Sexuality and the Law


Since the 1980s, social movement scholars have investigated the dynamic of movement/countermovement interaction. Most of these studies posit movements as initiators, with countermovements reacting to their challenges. Yet sometimes a movement supports an agenda in response to a countermovement that engages in what we call “anticipatory countermobilization.” We interviewed ten leading LGBT activists to explore the hypothesis that the LGBT movement was brought to the fight for marriage equality by the anticipatory countermobilization of social conservatives who opposed same-sex marriage before there was a realistic prospect that it would be recognized by the courts or political actors. Our findings reinforce the existing scholarship, but also go beyond it in emphasizing a triangular relationship among social movement organizations, countermovement organizations, and grassroots supporters of same-sex marriage. More broadly, the evidence suggests the need for a more reciprocal understanding of the relations among movements, countermovements, and sociolegal change.