Gay Priori

A Queer Critical Legal Studies Approach to Law Reform

Book Pages: 288 Illustrations: Published: April 2018

Author: Libby Adler

American Studies, Gender and Sexuality > LGBTQ Studies, Law

In Gay Priori Libby Adler offers a comprehensive critique of mainstream LGBT legal agendas in the United States and a new direction for LGBT law reform. Adler shows how LGBT equal rights discourse drives legal advocates toward a narrow array of reform objectives—namely, same-sex marriage, antidiscrimination protections, and hate crimes statutes. This approach means that many legal issues that greatly impact the lives of the LGBT community's most marginalized members—especially those who are transgender, homeless, underage, or nonwhite—often go unnoticed. Such a narrow focus on equal rights also fixes and flattens LGBT identities, perpetuates the uneven distribution of resources such as safety, housing, health, and wealth, and limits the capacity for advocates to imagine change. To combat these effects, Adler calls for prioritizing the redistribution of resources in ways that focus on addressing low-profile legal conditions such as foster care and other issues that better meet the needs of LGBT people. Such a shift in perspective, Adler contends, will serve to open up a new world of reform possibilities that the law provides for.


"Adler invites us to shift priorities, focusing on the poorest and most marginalized sectors of our communities while at the same time resisting and challenging the prototypical frames of gay identity—the picket-fenced same-sex headed household. . . . [An] important contribution toward a more emancipatory queer agenda. . . . [A] timely reminder that the legacy of Stonewall is still unfolding." — Scott Skinner-Thompson, Slate

"Gay Priori will stimulate its readers’ imaginations. It will challenge its readers, even when they close Adler’s pages, to look outside their field of vision and ask themselves what ideas of sexual justice and other kinds they rule out as unimaginable." — Robert Leckey, Sexualities

"The ground Adler’s book covers . . . is both vast and varied. It is critical work, but also points to alternatives. Although it focuses on the US, many of the interrogations she poses can be made with regards the broader work being done on equality. In the end, one of the central questions she poses is not only how our own pursuits have fallen short, but how they may have even caused harm, albeit unintentionally. After decades of work, the time for self-critique is not only welcome, but necessary. Beyond the questions posed, the variety of examples she provides is an asset of the book, because they themselves shine light on the particular sets of issues that could be explored." — Estefanía Vela Barba, International Journal of Constitutional Law

"Gay Priori is a signal achievement and perhaps the first book to give real legal-theoretical, lawyering, and critical legal studies substance to the debates in the humanities it addresses. Brilliantly executed and tightly argued, Libby Adler's book is a major intervention that may help produce a more economically redistributive LGBT social movement in the United States." — Janet Halley, author of Split Decisions: How and Why to Take a Break from Feminism

“Libby Adler takes a smart, provocative, and fascinating approach to the question of law reform on LGBTQ rights. Proposing to upend the civil rights horizon formulated by the official representatives of the LGBTQ community, Adler makes a rigorous and radical critique of the conventional wisdom about what it means to 'win' gay rights. We desperately need these kinds of sustained and argued challenges to the mainstream gay rights agenda.” — Katherine Franke, author of Wedlocked: The Perils of Marriage Equality


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Price: $26.95

Open Access

Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Libby Adler is Professor of Law and Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Northeastern University and coeditor of  the fourth edition of Mary Joe Frug's Women and the Law.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments  ix
Introduction  1
Part I. LGBT Equal Rights Discourse
1. The Indeterminacy Trap  19
2. The LGBT Rights-Bearing Subject  60
3. Reformist Desire  100
Part II. A Step Off the Well-Lit Path
4. Bringing Legal Realism to Political Economy  145
5. Making the Distributive Turn  175
Conclusion  212
Notes  217
Bibliography  247
Index  259
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-7149-6 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-7118-2
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