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Political Science Panel considers LGBT public policy
by Melissa Wasserman

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Within the Midwest Political Science Association's ( MPSA ) 72nd annual conference, LGBT-related caucus panel "LGBT equality: Public opinion, public policy, and political representation" was held at Palmer House Chicago April 3.

The conference held April 3-6, contained six LGBT-caucus panels, with "LGBT equality: Public opinion, public policy, and political representation" being the first conducted.

"This one, I think, is the most historical and developmental of the panels that I've read that the LGBT caucus is sponsoring," said panel discussant Andrew Ryan Flores of the Williams Institute for Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Policy and Law, based out of the UCLA School of Law. "I felt as though I wanted to say when I was discussing, let's just stop for a moment and take into account all the change that has happened because I think this would be the one panel where that would be the most appropriate. This has a lot more historical qualitative research. So, this panel is the most approachable out of the other panels that will likely be."

Austin Community College and Texas State University-San Marcos' Julia C. Decker presented "A New Majority: Legislative, Executive, Judicial, and Electoral Success for GLBT Movement," authored with Katrina LaFaye Decker. The paper examines and details the legislative, executive, judicial and electoral successes of the LGBT movement from 2010-2013.

Philip Pedlikin of George Mason University School of Public Policy presented his and Eric Michael Mazur's paper, "An Examination of Public Policy in Matters of Religion Related to Adoption by Married Same-Sex Couples," which provides an examination of state policies in light of post-DOMA potential conflicts between 14th Amendment-based religious objections to placing adopted children in same-sex families.

Alissandra T. Stoyan from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's presented the paper titled, "LGBT Legislators and the Introduction of Same-Sex Marriage Laws in the United States," which she authored with Andrew S. Reynolds. The paper investigates the relationship between the descriptive representation of LGBT communities in statewide legislative office and the passage of marriage equality laws by US states.

"At this point, our paper is in a pretty early stage, so I think the key thing we wanted to share was our ideas about how to survey stage legislators," said Stoyan, who said this was the first time she presented this work. "So, the most useful thing for me was to get feedback on the best way to approach that survey, since it's something new we're trying to do and we have ideas now about how to move forward."

Ben Bishin of the University of California, Riverside spoke on behalf of his paper "Testing Backlash: The Influence of Political Institutions on Public Attitudes Toward Gay Rights." Authored with Charles A. Smith, Matthew Incantalupo and Thomas J. Hayes, the paper covers the fear of backlash that has been used to discourage litigation over equality. Providing the first rigorous assessment of backlash using an online experiment, a natural experiment and looking at observational data.

"What this paper is about is this idea that traditionally in civil-rights movements, groups that press for rights are routinely told don't go too fast, don't go too far or there will be backlash," Bishin said in his presentation. "We've heard about all sorts of forms of that policy backlash and the form we were most interested in was the idea of opinion backlash."

Bishin offered the two hypotheses from his work in regards to who lashes back. The first hypothesis being "as exposure to information about gays and lesbians increases, attitudes toward gays and lesbians should become more negative among the groups we have identified." The second hypothesis described is "backlash against gay rights is stronger when change is initiated by judicial institutions rather than by legislative institutions."

Eric Lopez from the University of Texas at Tyler served as the workshop chair.

Following the presenters, Flores provided feedback on each paper in order to aid in improving each paper. Flores explained each of the papers are currently working papers that have not yet been published, therefore his part as discussant is an opportunity for the authors to gain insight and feedback from a different perspective.

"We had some pretty interesting papers and I wanted to make sure I was positive and constructive in each of my feedback to the papers," said Flores. "One thing I wanted to bring out was my general frame of the change and that we're all experiencing change. Almost all of these papers are trying to talk about what does LGBT politics look like in 2010s. We're in a different era, and so it's kind of what do we know about public opinion? What do we know about judicial policy-making and all those things?"

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