Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Nicole Vincent

Second Advisor

Brian D. Earp

Third Advisor

Eddy Nahmias

Fourth Advisor

Neil Van Leeuwen

Fifth Advisor

Dan Weiskopf


This thesis challenges the restrictive definition of ‘gay’ used in legal discourse, argues for the adoption of a broader definition that is inclusive of more gay individuals, and demonstrates that the adoption of a broader definition would help frame gay rights debates in a way that is more acceptable to both progressives and conservatives. Current legal arguments for gay rights use ‘gay’ to refer almost solely to individuals that have exclusively—largely immutable—same-sex erotic desires. However, ‘gay’ should be understood to include a more diverse group of individuals. Thus, the current restrictive use of the term ‘gay’ either captures too many people or too few. Too many people, for conservatives, because gay rights are extended to many gay individuals that are not included in the restrictive definition. Too few people, for progressives, because the restrictive use of the term ‘gay’ doesn’t capture the entire gay community.