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Freedom to Differ

The Shaping of the Gay and Lesbian Struggle for Civil Rights

Diane Miller

Publication Year: 1998

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.

Published by: NYU Press


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Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. iii-v


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p. ix

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pp. xi-xiii

The occasion of completing a book provides one of the rare moments in life in which one is compelled to cease one’s ongoing work, at least momentarily, and take stock of one’s emotional and intellectual debts: to give thanks where thanks are due. Doing so dispels the myth of the isolated...

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pp. xv-xvi

Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, a well-known scholar in the field of gay and lesbian studies, opened her book Tendencies by writing, “I think everyone who does gay and lesbian studies is haunted by the suicides of adolescents” (1993, I). The statistics on suicide among gay and lesbian teens are dramatic and...

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CONSTRUCTIONS AND DECONSTRUCTIONS: Gay Politics, Lesbian Feminism, and Civil Rights

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pp. 1-37

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...

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2. CLINTON’S “DAMN LESBIAN”: Politics and Visibility in the Achtenberg Debate

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pp. 39-81

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...

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3. AND THE BAN PLAYED ON: Politics and Prejudice in the Cammermeyer Case

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pp. 83-138

On July , , 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...

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4. CONCLUSION: Envisioning Our Future

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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...


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pp. 161-173


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pp. 175-185


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pp. 187-194

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p. 195

Diane Helene Miller received her B.A. in English and Sociology from Trinity University, her M.A. in Rhetoric from the University of California at Berkeley, and her Ph.D. in Speech Communication with a Graduate Certificate in Women’s Studies from the University of Georgia. She is a recipient...

E-ISBN-13: 9780814759714
E-ISBN-10: 0814759718
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814755952
Print-ISBN-10: 081475595X

Page Count: 264
Publication Year: 1998

OCLC Number: 45843972
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Freedom to Differ

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Gay rights -- United States -- History
  • Lesbians -- Legal status, laws, etc. -- United States.
  • Cammermeyer, Margarethe, 1942-.
  • Achtenberg, Roberta.
  • Women's rights -- United States -- History.
  • Lesbian feminism -- United States.
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