On the Fringe: Gays and Lesbians in Politics

Synopsis

Does the idea of equality for sexual minorities have as strong an influence as the media suggest? How often do politicians come out forthrightly in support of gay rights? Drawing on more than three hundred interviews with activists, politicians, officials, legislative aides, and journalists, David Rayside shows that gays, lesbians, and their political issues are still on the fringe of the political mainstream. His landmark study of political access demonstrates that, despite the overall tempering of anti-gay rhetoric in the 1990s, opponents of equality are formidable, and standing up for sexual minorities is still widely thought to be politically risky.

Rayside documents a high-profile controversy in each of three countries: gays and lesbians in the military in the United States, sexual orientation and human rights legislation in Canada, and the age-of-consent battle in the United Kingdom. In addition, in-depth interviews of openly gay elected officials from three countries -- U.S. Congressman Barney Frank, Canadian Member of Parliament Svend Robinson, and British M.P. Chris Smith -- provide an inside look at the political process: the negotiation of gay and lesbian policy issues on a daily basis, the attitudes of colleagues in various political parties, and the tensions created when grassroots and mainstream activism intersect with each other. The only major book to look at gay and lesbian politics in three culturally similar but politically disparate countries, On the Fringe explores the political workings and impact of a modern social movement