Sydney, Australia With LGBTQ Pride Month upon us, new University of Sydney research released today paints a vivid picture of how the LGBTQ community has achieved groundbreaking advancements over the past two decades. The study indicates much of the success is owed to the movement's legal organizations and illustrates the overwhelming ineffectiveness of more mainstream lobbying groups.
The study is part of new book, LGBTQ Lobbying in the United States, authored by Dr. Christopher Pepin-Neff, LGBTQ researcher and Senior Lecturer in Public Policy at the University of Sydney and released by the academic publisher Routledge in advance of LGBTQ Pride Month. Both the study and book give an insider look at a movement that has largely won advancements in rights due to the work of legal organizations and issues and tactics prioritized by the mainstream gay lobbying community has failed to serve LGBTQ interested and in turn, have harmed the community by further perpetuating power dynamics rendering queer Americans vulnerable to structure oppressions.
"Historic advancements in LGBTQ rights over the past two decades are often talked about today, but how that progress has been achieved is largely left to the mythmaking of the powerful," said Dr. Christopher Pepin-Neff, LGBTQ researcher and Senior Lecturer in Public Policy at the University of Sydney. Dr. Pepin-Neff was also the first full-time lobbyist for the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell" and founder of Q Street, the LGBTQ lobbying association of Washington, D.C. "The reality of LGBTQ progress has come largely outside the community power structures, and most times in direct conflict with mainstream gay rights organizations and their political allies."
Building on original research by Pepin-Neff and Dr. Tom Wynter published in the journal Politics and Gender, the new, national study of LGBTQ lobbyists and advocates across the country conducted May 4, 2021 to May 14, 2021 and released today, finds:
LGBTQ lobbyists and advocates, those with the most inside view of the community's progress, see legal organizations as the place where LGBTQ history has been made.
Lambda Legal, the LGBTQ community's foremost legal rights organization, followed by the ACLU were ranked the most effective LGBTQ organizations.
The Human Rights Campaign, the richest LGBTQ organization with a $48 million a year budget, was ranked 10th most effective (out of 17 organizations) falling six positions since the original research published in 2018.
GLAAD, the community's second wealthiest organization with a $19 million a year budget, was ranked 13th most effective.
"With a 6-3 majority in the Supreme Court, the spotlight is shifting to LGBTQ lobbyists and legislative success. Unfortunately, these organizations responsible for shaping the community's relationship with states and the Federal government are largely seen as ineffective and oftentimes harmful to progress," Pepin-Neff continued.
The academic research and book show how the ineffectiveness of the LGBTQ lobby, as opposed to the LGBTQ legal movement, has largely focused on gaining access to power structures that have in turn strengthened systems of oppression including racism, sexism, ableism, classism, homophobia and transphobia. This focus on access to power has stalled progress in LGBTQ advocacy and created a fundraising model built on access to power that promotes a commercial identity of gayness as a consumable product most often benefitting white, cisgender, English-speaking men and women from the middle and upper class of society.
"The LGBTQ community's access to power has not translated into further advancements of civil rights," concluded Dr. Pepin-Neff. "President Obama and President Biden, for instance, are largely perpetuated as major, uninhibited advocates for LGBTQ equality. However, a one-dimensional narrative of uninhibited success isn't reality. The research is clear - activists pushing outside of the power structure are largely responsible in forcing progress on queer rights, not formal, mainstream lobbying organizations."
About Christopher Pepin-Neff
Dr. Christopher Pepin-Neff is a Senior Lecturer in Public Policy in the Department of Government and International Relations at the University of Sydney. He holds a Ph.D. in public policy ('14) and a Masters Degree in public policy ('07) from the University of Sydney. He received a Bachelor's Degree in political science ('99) from James Madison University in Virginia.