In 1960, every state in the United States had a sodomy law that banned certain consensual sex acts between adults in private. In addition to statutes regarding anal sex, the sodomy statutes, either by express statutory language or judicial interpretation, prohibited any oral-genital contact. In some states, these laws applied to opposite-sex as well as same-sex couples, and to married as well as single people (Apasu-Gbotsu et al. 1986). During the last half-century, however, these laws have primarily been used to control lesbians and gay men, despite the fact that they were originally enacted to prohibit any nonprocreative sex (Halley 1994; Greenberg 1988; M. Bernstein 2004). Lesbians and gay men have been arrested in undercover sting operations in gay bars, cruising places, and hotel rooms, as well as in their own bedrooms as recently as the 1980s and 1990s (Robson 1992). Sodomy laws have also signified support for a heteronormative order that posits distinct gender and sexual roles for men and women (M. Bernstein 2001).
How should social movement theorists assess the success of movements that seek to profoundly alter dominant cultural values as well as achieve concrete legal change? Political opportunity theory along with much of the social movement literature tells us that changing laws or policies, in this case the sodomy statutes, constitutes movement success. But should we count these legal victories as successes when, rather than challenging the symbolic dimensions of these laws that discursively mark lesbian and gay sexuality and identity as