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Copyright (c) 1988 University of Wisconsin Law School
Wisconsin Law Review

ARTICLE: HOMOSEXUALITY AND THE SOCIAL MEANING OF GENDER.

March, 1988 / April, 1988

1988 Wis. L. Rev. 187

Author

SYLVIA A. LAW *

Excerpt

I. INTRODUCTION

In 1986, the United States Supreme Court rejected a claim that constitutional norms of privacy and liberty bar the state from imposing criminal punishment on adult, consensual sexual conduct in the home. 1 This Article attempts to fathom the cultural values that animate condemnation of homosexual behavior. My central thesis is that contemporary legal and cultural contempt for lesbian women and gay men serves primarily to preserve and reinforce the social meaning attached to gender.

Section II of this Article demonstrates that the law and culture condemn specific sexual actions by homosexual people more harshly than similar actions by heterosexual people, and suggests that the disapprobation of homosexual behavior is a reaction to the violation of gender norms, rather than simply scorn for the violation of norms of sexual behavior. Section III reviews the moral and scientific concepts historically offered to justify Western civilization's censure of homosexual conduct. Section IV traces the growing capacity of women and gay people to think critically and speak about their own experiences; it also describes the impact of these new voices on American religious and scientific thought about homosexual behavior. Section V argues that the persistence of negative social and legal attitudes toward homosexuality can best be understood as preserving traditional concepts of masculinity and femininity as well as upholding the political, market and family structures premised upon gender differentiation. Finally, Section VI argues that legal censure of homosexuality violates constitutional norms of gender equality.

II. CONTEMPORARY CONDEMNATION OF HOMOSEXUAL ...
 
 
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