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Freedom to Differ

Freedom to Differ: The Shaping of the Gay and Lesbian Struggle for Civil Rights

Copyright Date: 1998
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 212
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  • Book Info
    Freedom to Differ
    Book Description:

    Many of us have grown up with the language of civil rights, yet rarely consider how the construction of civil rights claims affects those who are trying to attain them. Diane Miller examines arguments lesbians and gay men make for civil rights, revealing the ways these arguments are both progressive--in terms of helping to win court cases seeking basic human rights--and limiting--in terms of framing representations of gay men and lesbians. Miller incorporates case studies of lesbians in the military and in politics into her argument. She discusses in detail the experiences of Colonel Margarethe Cammermeyer, who was dishonorably discharged from the National Guard after 27 years of service when she revealed that she was a lesbian, and Roberta Achtenberg, who was nominated by Clinton for the job of Assistant Director of Housing and Urban Development and became the first gay or lesbian to face the confirmation process. Drawing on these cases and their outcomes, Miller evaluates the advantages and disadvantages of privileging civil rights strategies in the struggle for gay and lesbian rights.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-5971-4
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xiv)
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  5. 1 CONSTRUCTIONS AND DECONSTRUCTIONS Gay Politics, Lesbian Feminism, and Civil Rights
    (pp. 1-38)

    In the winter of 1993, shortly after his inauguration, President Bill Clinton nominated longtime supporter Roberta Achtenberg for the position of assistant director of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Achtenberg, an openly lesbian lawyer and lesbian rights advocate, had served on the Board of Supervisors of San Francisco from 1991 to 1993. Her selection to a position in the president’s cabinet required the approval of the Senate, making her the first openly gay or lesbian nominee ever to face the Senate confirmation process. Because she made no secret of her sexual orientation, Achtenberg and her supporters anticipated some resistance to...

  6. 2 CLINTON’S “DAMN LESBIAN” Politics and Visibility in the Achtenberg Debate
    (pp. 39-82)

    In May 1993, a debate raged for three days in the U.S. Senate chamber, marking what its participants proclaimed a “historic” event. With Bill Clinton’s choice of Roberta Achtenberg for the position of assistant secretary for Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Achtenberg became the first “out” lesbian in history to be nominated for a United States cabinet post. During the nomination hearing held before the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs on April 29¹ and the subsequent Senate filibuster that continued for nine and a half hours on May 19 and 20 and concluded with more discussion and a...

  7. 3 AND THE BAN PLAYED ON Politics and Prejudice in the Cammermeyer Case
    (pp. 83-138)

    On July 14, 1991, exactly thirty years to the day after her initiation into the United States military, Colonel Margarethe (Grethe) Cammermeyer went before a military board on charges of being a homosexual.¹ In the hearing that followed, Cammermeyer’s military and civilian counsel presented a case that highlighted her great value to the military. They cited her nearly twenty-seven years of service,² her tour of duty in Vietnam, and her numerous honors and awards. These included the Bronze Star for service in Vietnam, recognition as an outstanding Vietnam veteran, and the Veterans Administration (VA) Nurse of the Year Award. They...

  8. 4 CONCLUSION Envisioning Our Future
    (pp. 139-160)

    A button marketed recently at gay and lesbian events declares, “If we give gays and lesbians civil rights, everyone will want them.” In fact, it is difficult to identify any other group of American citizens who are currently less protected under the U.S. Constitution than are gays and lesbians. “There is nothing in current constitutional doctrine that prevents those otherwise bound by the Constitution (public or state entities) from discriminating on the basis of lesbianism” (Robson 1990, 39). Despite the substantial progress achieved by lesbians and gays over the past thirty years, there remains no legal protection for homosexuals as...

  9. NOTES
    (pp. 161-174)
    (pp. 175-186)
  11. INDEX
    (pp. 187-194)
  12. Back Matter
    (pp. 195-197)