Date of Award




Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Department of Public Administration and Policy

Content Description

1 online resource (vi, 305 pages) : PDF file, color illustrations, color maps

Dissertation/Thesis Chair

Sue Faerman

Committee Members

Patricia Strach, Karl Rethemeyer


change agents, civil-rights, interracial marriage, LGBT, policy innovation and diffusion, same-sex marriage, Same-sex marriage, Gay couples

Subject Categories

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Studies | Political Science | Public Policy


Like many other controversial social issues, same-sex marriage has followed the ebb and flow of the political stream for almost 30 years in the United States. What pulled this policy issue out of the policy stream and placed it front and center in the public's mind were the actions of a handful of local officials who, in the winter of 2004, acted against the status quo and instituted public policies in favor of same-sex marriage. This research provides a case study analysis of the six localities whose officials acted in defiance of law and social custom, and began issuing marriage licenses and marrying gay and lesbian couples despite the fact that such policies went against the status quo and were not favored in most localities and states in the nation at the time. The intent of this study is to help us comprehend what were the major determinants influencing these policy entrepreneurs to act in favor of same-sex marriage and to explore how their actions diffused throughout the policy and political system. To elicit data for the case study, personal interviews were conducted with the officials who were identified as the primary instigators in creating and instituting the innovative policy action that challenged State and federal law. The following work hopes to enlighten and present a new perspective on the same-sex marriage debate in The United States by looking at same-sex marriage as a complex moral issue that encompasses facets of social movement, diffusion, and morality theory. This research explores how ideas, policies and actions regarding modern marriage, and same-sex marriage in particular, diffuse across the spectrum of politics to create social change. In doing so, it tests assumptions about the relationship between same-sex marriage and civil rights, and it draws attention to local policy entrepreneurs involved in instigating positive change in the same-sex marriage policy dispute. Because it is a dynamic subject the study focuses on the policy issue through 2011.