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Lake Dziengel

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Journal of Gay & Lesbian Social Services, 22:165–182, 2010 Copyright © Taylor & Francis Group, LLC ISSN: 1053-8720 print / 1540-4056 online DOI: 10.1080/10538720903332578

Advocacy Coalitions and Punctuated Equilibrium in the Same-Sex Marriage Debate: Learning from Pro-LGBT Policy Changes in Minneapolis and Minnesota
St. Cloud State University, St. Cloud, Minnesota

Policy change to actualize same-sex marriage requires planning and practices that can be most effective to advance marriage equality. This case study examines how building and maintaining strong coalitions aided in attainment and preservation of civil rights and protections for same-sex couples in Minnesota. As a historical policy analysis, it dissects collaborative strategies and events that led to a municipal domestic partner ordinance and state civil rights protections for sexual minorities in Minnesota during 1983–1995. Viewed through the lens of Advocacy Coalition Framework and Punctuated Equilibrium theory, findings support and highlight the importance of strategic planning of developing capable leaders, building strong coalitions, and capitalizing on events to garner public support and advance public policy toward civil rights protections and legal recognition for same-sex couples. KEYWORDS advocacy coalitions, punctuated equilibrium, policy, lesbian, gay, domestic partner benefits

The city of Minneapolis, Minnesota, a large urban community, passed a Domestic Partner Ordinance in 1991 as the result of intensive lobby efforts by community organizers and private citizens and liaison building with the city government. The ordinance was repeatedly challenged in the municipal court system, and eventually rescinded. However, it provided impetus for
Address correspondence to Lake Dziengel, St. Cloud State University, Department of Social Work, Stewart Hall 234, 720 Fourth Ave. S., St. Cloud, MN 56301. E-mail: ledziengel@ 165


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expanded advocacy and coalition building with key decision makers. In 1993, the Minnesota State Legislature became the first state to enact civil rights legislation that included sexual orientation regardless of gender identity as a protected class. Shortly thereafter, Minneapolis reenacted the Domestic Partner Ordinance, and advocacy efforts resulted in domestic partner benefits in other arenas. Minneapolis now has an Equal Benefits Ordinance that recognizes domestic partners and same-sex marriages or civil unions performed in other jurisdictions, and contains stipulations regarding vendors contracting with the city. The city also offers some domestic partner benefits for any city employee who declares domestic partner status. The 1996 federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) resulted in many states using general election ballots to amend state constitutions prohibiting same-sex marriage. However, proposals to add a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage through a general election ballot failed to pass in the Minnesota legislature in the late 1990s and again in 2004, 2005, and 2006. This case study examines variables impacting policies in Minnesota. Specifically, the Advocacy Coalition Framework and Punctuated Equilibrium theory are applied to understand the factors that led to important policy change. While used to examine other policy issues, this is the first application of these lenses to policy affecting same-sex couples. The analysis is consistent with key points of these theories and offers suggestions that can be useful to advocates working toward strategies to secure or protect same-sex-couple civil rights and legal recognition of same-sex marriage in other municipalities and/or states.

THEORETICAL ANALYSIS: DOUBLE-LAYER APPROACH Advocacy Coalition Framework and Punctuated Equilibrium
The Advocacy Coalition Framework (ACF) and Punctuated Equilibrium theory (PE) both posit that policy change generally happens over a time period of a decade or more. ACF identifies how information and financial costs impact decisions, and stresses the role of people involved from multiple public and private institutions familiar with the problem. It considers community change efforts and argues that policy change is best viewed from the notion of “iron triangles” (Sabatier & Jenkins-Smith, 1999, p. 119): the interactions of administrative bodies, advocacy organizations/agencies, legislators and interested parties collaborating in the policy process through building positive working relationships and coalitions. Media and co-occurring events are also considered influential. Core beliefs and values support the policy change to become actualized and the process is generated by means of linkages through these subsystems from a “bottom-up” rather than “top-down” approach (Sabatier & Jenkins-Smith,

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1999). These coalitions come together in shared perceptions of beliefs and “engage in a nontrivial degree of coordinated activity over time” (p. 120). ACF supposes five premises (Sabatier & Jenkins-Smith, 1999, pp. 118– 120). These are the following: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. Problem identification and information exchange Policy change occurs over time Subsystems interact to promote change that allows for mutual gain “Iron Triangles” collaborate in common goals Core values and beliefs are shared by stakeholders

Weible (2006) described the importance of understanding the role and beliefs of stakeholders in the policy change process using ACF, noting that policy subsystems are impacted by their motivations and resources. Problems and core beliefs of potential stakeholders should have similarities in order to actualize policy change and access to resources. These resources include access to officials with decision-making power, understanding public opinion, being able to utilize information systems, building participation in coalitions, monetary support, and leaders with demonstrated ability to influence, negotiate, and build change (Weible, 2006). By understanding these aspects, advocates can design and integrate strategies based in the framework of coalitions and through tactical approaches and effective resource utilization. ACF theory has been used in case studies related to public health and ecological policy change, but has not been applied in understanding policy changes and advocacy efforts for sexual minorities. In this case study, it does not seem apparent that participants were aware of this framework, but rather events unfolded and were fortunately guided by capable leaders who shared resources and built alliances. PE compliments ACF in its examination of subsystems and collaboration. PE considers how a crisis can affect policy change. While policy matters tend to be somewhat static, occasionally issues rise to the forefront and accentuate periods of time which can be opportunities when change can occur. Change is often precipitated by a problem that may slowly build and a crisis occurs to shift systemic perceptions (Jones, Baumgartner, & True, 1998). This period of instability is when policy changes can be actualized. Officials must address a specific issue because of a change in the structure of some system. Potentially the face of the political party or the population changes, or a particular social problem emerges to upset the equilibrium and may become a “hot” topic and gain “macropolitical” status (True, Jones, & Baumgartner, 1999, p. 102). PE is compatible with ACF in that it acknowledges how movement in a subsystem can eventually alter the relationships with or behavior of other subsystems. Gersick (1991) examined intersections between theories of radical change and system interactions. She noted that consistency in systems is


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maintained from a core need for equilibrium based upon fears of loss, fear of failure, and intrasystem benefit through sustaining the “status quo.” These “deep structures” (p. 19) need to be shaken apart such that new ideas and implementation of policy changes can occur and happens when systemic structures are changed internally by some particular event or problem and the ability to access resources is somehow altered. This external access is what becomes actualized in the policy change, whereas the internal structure expresses the need for change. Change does not always occur when either the internal or external systems are shaken, but occasionally a crisis period can spark change, particularly when new stakeholders make concentrated efforts to promote change. PE theory has been used to analyze agency change (Baumgartner & Jones, 1991) and in domains to understand influences in budgetary planning. It has not been applied to understanding policy change to attain samesex marriage or civil rights protections for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community. Primary data for this analysis is the result of reviewing archival records in the Tretter Special Collection in Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Studies located at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. This collection houses more than 30,000 items and is an international collection of LGBT historical and present-day books, media, art, manuscripts, private papers, and periodicals. I reviewed files on the proceedings of city council meetings, coalition meeting minutes, newspaper articles, and media releases as well as personal letters and memos. I also accessed federal, state, and municipal government Web sites and gathered personal observations from persons who were active stakeholders during this period of policy change.

The City of Minneapolis, Hennepin County, Minnesota, is located in a major metropolitan region in the Midwest adjacent to the city of St. Paul. The metropolitan region is commonly known as the Twin Cities. Minneapolis has a population of 382,200, and is the forty-fifth largest city in the United States. The current metropolitan population is approximately 3 million. Minneapolis contains a diverse ethnic and racial population and a significant number of sexual minorities. In this regard, Minneapolis parallels many major cities in population size. In the 1990 Census, the number of same-sex households in Minnesota totaled 3,052, with most of those concentrated in the Twin City area. In the 2000 Census, 9,147 same-sex households were reported in Minnesota, with nearly 4,000 of those located in Hennepin County. A substantial increase in the number of same-sex households reported in the rural regions reflects the

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national norm of increased numbers of same-sex households both in urban and rural areas (Bradford, Barrett, & Honnold, 2002). In ACF, the essential factor is how subsystems form “iron triangles”: the agencies, organizations, people, media, legislators, and other public or private groups involved in the policy change. Between 1983 and 1995 a policy change triangle formed between the Minneapolis City Council, the State of Minnesota Legislature, and a third side largely comprised of advocacy organizations, private groups, and pro-LGBT media. Multiple events in Minnesota garnered public attention and resulted in cooperative efforts between legislators, city council members, and public and private agencies. Local media covered organizing efforts, and eventually these events drew national attention. Collaborations between subsystems supported the passage of a city domestic partner ordinance and state civil rights legislation, and secured domestic partner benefits in local public institutions. PE events and private individuals, along with legislative and advocacy efforts, affected the social and personal landscape such that domestic partnership became a macropolitical agenda and set the stage on which the Three Sides of the Iron Triangle of ACF could become actualized. I describe each side of the Triangle in terms of stakeholders and characteristics. I also comment on aspects of PE to assist in understanding the intersections of events and stakeholders. A timeline (see Figure 1) is included to help the reader to comprehend the complex process of how these subsystems interacted and eventually converged, resulting in specific policy changes in 1991–1993, as well as some key events or “punctuations” that assisted change efforts.

Triangle Side One: Minneapolis City Council Leadership
In 1974, both Minneapolis and St. Paul adopted ordinances to include civil rights language for sexual orientation, but these were later rescinded due to public pressure. In 1983 Rick Osborne, an attorney on the Minneapolis Commission of Civil Rights, put forth a proposal for “alternative families” that gained hearing status with the city’s Civil Rights Commission. He was joined by another commissioner in this first effort to gain domestic partner recognition for city residents (Minneapolis City Council Domestic Partners Legislation folder, Tretter Special Collection; Dziengel, 1990). The first draft proposed various benefits and protections for couples, regardless of sexual orientation, and proposed a domestic partner registry. Couples would need to register with the city to declare their status as domestic partners. Proposed benefits included hospital and jail visitation and shared banking. City employees would have received additional benefits of paid medical leave of absence for health needs. Osborne surveyed local banking institutions, employers associations, and insurance companies, and


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garnered support from community organizations, including the Minnesota chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW). A steering committee formed in March 1984, and the proposal was debated for about 18 months, but failed to reach a bill or hearing status (Minneapolis City

City of Minneapolis 1972 1973 St. Paul & Minneapolis adopt civil rights ordinances, later rescinded 1975 1975 1972 1973

MN State Government Sen. Spear elected 1st proposal for civil rights 1972 1973

Other Advocacy Efforts

2nd attempt for civil rights bill (Carlson)


1980 1983 1st ordinance proposal Coyle elected 1984 Steering Committee formed

1980 1983

Rep. Clark elected

1980 1983 Kowalski accident



Kowalski parents attain guardianship




GLCAC founded, partners with Coyle

1988 1989 DP Ordinance presented to city council

1988 1989 Governor appoints Task Force

1988 1989

Library lawsuit Thompson petitions for guardianship of Kowalski


1st council hearing Coyle consults with attorneys



AFSCME & MAPE organizing; U of MN suit


Coyle City Council VP DP Ordinance passed 1/91 Coyle dies 8/91


Governor reappoints Task Force Spear/Clark bill defeated Sen. Wellstone elected


GLCAC organizes mass DP registration Thompson awarded limited guardianship


Legal challenges rescind DP ordinance



Hennepin Co. extends benefits

FIGURE 1 Timeline of key events. (Continued)

Advocacy Coalitions
City of Minneapolis
1993 Sayles-Belton elected mayor DP ordinance reinstated post State Law Civil Rights Act MN School Board extends benefits 1994 1995 DP benefits extended Legal challenges restrict health benefits 1996 Federal DOMA

Other Advocacy Efforts
GLCAC founds It’s Time Minnesota U of MN DP benefits approved Kowalski case resolved

MN State Government
State Legislature passes Civil Rights Law Senator Spear President of Senate

FIGURE 1 (Continued)

Council Domestic Partners Legislation folder, Tretter Special Collection). Speculation was that upcoming elections derailed commitment. Osborne later would be instrumental in the drafts of the first city municipal ordinance (Dziengel, 1990). Also in 1983 openly gay Brian Coyle was elected to the city council, and Coyle became vital to the passage of a city domestic partner ordinance in 1991. Building his credibility and leadership, Coyle presented an ordinance to the city council in fall 1989 for domestic partner benefits. Fellow council member Pat Scott began to collaborate with Coyle to promote hearings for the ordinance. Both Scott and Coyle were generally well liked and possessed strong leadership skills. In 1991 Coyle became Vice President of the City Council. Coyle used his position on the council and garnered legal opinions for the city to enact a domestic partner ordinance, demonstrating the characteristics of legal authority and leadership ability needed for policy change as defined in ACF. Two Clinical Professors of Law, Beverly Balos and Maury Landsman at the University of Minnesota, concluded that the city had the authority to enact an ordinance (Balos Letter to Brian Coyle, May 18, 1990). At that time, only two other members of the 13-member city council supported the proposed amendment (City Council Amendment, July 30, 1990). Eventually another key council member, Sharon Sayles-Belton, supported the ordinance. She would become Mayor of Minneapolis from 1994 to 2001, and her support and leadership proved critical in the ensuing challenges to the ordinance. Her leadership style and core values and beliefs were


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similar to Coyle’s. They demonstrated mutual goals and values, a key variable suggested by ACF. Don Fraser, Democratic Mayor of Minneapolis in 1990, also supported a domestic partner ordinance. On July 30, 1990, the first hearing on an ordinance was held in the city council chambers. More than 300 people attended the four-and-a-half-hour meeting (“Domestic Partnership Battle Begins,” 1990). Several community members spoke, including same-sex couples, pastors, and members of advocacy groups (Testimony for Public Hearing on Domestic Partner Ordinance, 7/30/90). By January 1991 a majority of the 13-member city council and the mayor supported the ordinance. Endorsing the ordinance were the Minnesota Civil Liberties Union, Minnesota NOW, newly elected Senator Paul Wellstone, two Hennepin County Commissioners, neighborhood associations, and the local Gay and Lesbian Community Action Council (GLCAC) (Resolution of the City of Minneapolis, January 11, 1991). The city council voted on three resolutions within the ordinance proposal, and all passed on January 25, 1991, establishing sick and bereavement leave for city employees (10–3),a Family Diversity Task Force (10–3), and a domestic partner registry, including protections for hospital and institutional visitation (9–3) (Agenda for the City Council, January 23, 1991; “Hurray! Lesbians and Gay Men Win Partnership Registration in Minneapolis,” 1991). Minneapolis became 1 of only 10 cities to enact this kind of ordinance and Coyle was credited for his “persistence, perseverance. . . and political savvy as key ingredients for victory” (p. 1). Coyle demonstrated characteristics critical to leadership capabilities and legal authority specified by ACF, but he had also drawn on his personality to pull together key stakeholders and community members in accessing their core values and beliefs and had success in “winning over” the city council. However, the untimely death of Brian Coyle in August 1991 delivered a hard blow to advocacy leadership and access to legal authority as the LGBT community lost its primary city council voice. This could be considered a “punctuated event,” as it created somewhat of a crisis and created a period of instability in leadership. Following its enactment, the legality of the Minneapolis ordinance was challenged repeatedly by conservative groups and resulted in three years of legal debate on the grounds of whether or not a municipality had the authority to enact such an ordinance, particularly one that provided domestic partner health benefits to employees. The city was allowed to establish a domestic partner registry for anyone who lived or worked in the city, but could not provide benefits to city employees. According to PE theory, this is not surprising given that deep equilibrium must be shaken and that the status quo is maintained by fear of change or potential loss of intrasystem benefits. The morality of sanctioning sexual minority couples was at issue, as was whether the city had the right to authorize public funds to cover health insurance for domestic partners of unmarried workers. While the challenges stemmed primarily from religious-based groups, this

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proposition was new in that no other municipality in Minnesota had proposed it, and it did not garner enough public support from the non-LGBT community to shake core beliefs held by the broader community. Then Sayles-Belton was elected Mayor in 1993 with the support of openly gay state legislators Allan Spear and Karen Clark (“Mayor Race Still Up for Grabs Despite Endorsement,” 1993). Under Sayles-Belton’s leadership, domestic partner benefits were fully instated for city employees and health benefits were extended to city employees beginning in January 1994 (“Minneapolis Employees to Get Full Partner Benefits,” 1993). Sayles-Belton’s leadership and shared core values and beliefs stabilized the leadership crisis, and she gained political allies in the process. Stakeholders at the community, city, and state level were impacted by a collaboration that resulted in mutual gain in subsystems by her re-election and by domestic partner protections for LGBT citizens and heterosexual couples in Minneapolis.

Triangle Side Two: Minnesota State Legislature Leadership
State civil rights legislation to include LGBT citizens began as early as 1973 when Senator Nick Coleman introduced a proposal to add homosexuality to the Human Rights Bill. In 1975, Arne Carlson, then a Representative in the Minnesota Legislature, sponsored another bill to include sexual orientation. Neither proposal gained ground. In 1989, Governor Rudy Perpich commissioned a Task Force including Senator Allan Spear to address LGBT concerns (Timeline for Civil Rights Legislation, Equal Time Issue #287, 1993). Senator Spear, the first openly gay man to hold a federal legislative position, was elected to the Minnesota Senate in 1972 and came out in 1974. Hearings occurred throughout the state and the Task Force recommended that the state form an ongoing commission to study the LGBT community’s concerns, start tracking discriminatory actions, and repeal sodomy laws (“Carlson to Reappoint Task Force,” 1991). Based upon the Task Force report, Senator Spear and Representative Karen Clark attempted to pass LGBT civil rights legislation in what was a “top-down” civil rights approach (Sexual Orientation Legislation to Face Its First Test, 1991), but the bill was defeated in a committee vote by 11 to 13 in April 1991. Clark, a lesbian member of the House of Representatives, was also a prominent figure, having been elected in 1980. Both politicians were vocal about their support for LGBT civil rights and were respected by their peers, but were unable to effect a policy change. They had not accessed the mutual support of other subsystems, nor were they able to impact the core beliefs or persuade their colleagues about mutual gain, as ACF prescribes as necessary to policy change. In November 1991 Senator Paul Wellstone was elected and became a stalwart ally for the LGBT community. He shared core beliefs and values, had


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legal authority, was charismatic, and possessed skills in strategic leadership critical to coalition building in ACF. Here, we see conditions of ACF in place. Coordinated advocacy efforts prepared for the 1993 legislative session (“Groundwork to Be Laid for 1993 Rights Push,” 1992), including planned advocacy with GLCAC. In 1993, Senator Spear served as President of the Minnesota Senate and was persistent in his desire to get this civil rights legislation passed (Spear Legislative History Web site; Equal Time, Issue #315; Oberlin College LGBT Personal History Web site, 2006). In 1993, Senate and House files were introduced to pass a civil rights legislation specific to sexual orientation. They moved through committee vote and ultimately passed and the legislation was signed by Governor Arne Carlson, a Republican, on April 2, 1993 (Timeline for Civil Rights Legislation, 1993). Governor Carlson had consistently been sympathetic regarding sexual minority civil rights and, in a bipartisan move, Senator Dean Johnson gave a speech during the debate that likely swayed some legislators. Johnson stressed the importance of “the majority giving rights to the minority,” saying that despite the stress and fears of political risk, he needed to vote yes in support of the legislation (“Johnson Breaks from IR Ranks with Senate Speech,” 1993). This demonstration of a change of core beliefs marks the shift that can occur according to ACF and was also possibly influenced by additional punctuated or crisis events further described in Triangle Side Three. With this legislation, Minnesota became the first state to include sexual identity and thus, transgender identity, as a protected class (Statewide Anti-Discrimination Laws & Policies, 2006). This legislation also provided Minneapolis the basis for their argument for domestic partner benefits as a civil rights issue. The movement in the Minnesota legislative subsystem gave authority for change in the Minneapolis subsystem as the deep structure shifts of PE were realized in civil rights laws to protect sexual minorities.

Triangle Side Three: Advocacy Coalitions/Organizations/Media, Public and Private
The third side of the triangle was comprised of numerous group efforts, advocacy organizations, and the media. All of these affected the ebb and flow of policy decisions. Minnesota’s now largest gay rights organization, OutFront, MN, was then a fledgling advocacy group based in Minneapolis known as GLCAC. Founded in 1986, GLCAC partnered with city council member Coyle in creating a Domestic Partner Task Force. The task force included several LGBT community leaders involved in other advocacy efforts as well. The GLCAC Task Force coordinated and organized public rallies and solicited the support of the gay community throughout the period of 1986–1993. They created fact sheets and facilitated community organizing (Equal Time,

Advocacy Coalitions


August 17–August 30, 1990; Dziengel, 1990; Fact Sheets in Domestic Partner Box, Tretter Special Collection, U of MN Libraries). In 1993, GLCAC galvanized efforts to lobby for the civil rights legislation under a campaign called “It’s Time, Minnesota” (Equal Time, January 15–January 29, 1993) and organized a mass registration effort in Minneapolis on March 21, 1991, when 45 couples registered as domestic partners at city hall. Another political lobbying group was the newly formed Human Rights Campaign Fund (now known as HRC), a Washington, DC,–based lobby group founded by Minnesota native Steve Endean. Endean returned to Minnesota specifically to assist in the civil rights legislation (Equal Time, April 9–April 23, 1993, Issue #287). Both GLCAC and HRC were new stakeholders effectively mobilizing resources around common core beliefs. In the public and private sectors, a few private citizens and smaller coalition groups acted to influence policy changes across multiple systems. The Minneapolis Public Library Board was drawn into the domestic partner policy arena in 1988 when an employee tried to register her same-sex partner for health benefits. Two other employees eventually joined in a discrimination lawsuit, and the Minneapolis Department of Civil Rights in September 1991 ordered the library board to award damages (Equal Time, 12/4–18/1992, Issue #278). The board appealed the damages and won their case, but later awarded domestic partner benefits to same-sex couples in 1993 (“Minneapolis Library Board Approves Partner Benefits,” 1993). In 1990, some state employees who were members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) and the Minnesota Association of Professional Employees (MAPE) started organizing to gain domestic partner benefits (Letters to Editor, Equal Time, August 17–August 31, 1990, Issue #128). At the University of Minnesota (Star Tribune article, May 23, 1990), in 1990 six university employees in same-sex-couple relationships filed a lawsuit for domestic partner benefits. The Board of Regents announced a domestic partner benefit package in September 1993 including resident tuition, sports memberships, housing benefits, sick and bereavement leave, child care, retirement, and health coverage. This was cited as the “most comprehensive benefit package in the nation for gays and lesbians at a public institution of higher learning” (“U of M Gays, Lesbians Get Near Parity Benefits,” 1993; Equal Time, September 23–September 30, 1993, Issue #300). The momentum continued to impact other subsystems. In June 1992, Hennepin County authorized that union employees receive sick and bereavement leave for domestic partners (News Release Hennepin County Commissioner, June 2, 1992). In January 1995, the County Board of Commissioners extended health benefits to domestic partners (Equal Time, April 14–April 22, 1994). And in a surprising move in 1993, the Minneapolis School District Board of Education became the first school district in the country to provide full health care benefits for domestic partners (“School Board Sets Precedent,” 1993).


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According to PE, the issue of domestic partner benefits had “erupted” as a crisis event and gained “macropolitical” status across many private and public systems. Stakeholders in the internal subsystems were expressing a need and deep structures of equilibrium were being changed through collaboration of members across systems and coalitions. Many stakeholders were members of GLCAC community organizing efforts as well as organizing for policy changes in the private and public sectors. Within the sphere of private citizen actions that brought LGBT civil rights protections into the public arena, probably the most poignant story was the legal case of Sharon Kowalski and Karen Thompson. Kowalski was in a severe car accident in 1983, and Thompson challenged Kowalski’s family in a 10-year battle for the right to visit and, ultimately, gain guardianship of her partner (National Committee to Free Sharon Kowalski News Release, January 6, 1988; National Organization for Women News Release, March 15, 1991; Equal Time, April 26–May 10, 1991, May 10–May 24, 1991, August 16–August, 30, 1991; GAZE, March 5, 1993, Tretter Collection). This event quietly drew Minnesota gay and lesbian civil rights to the forefront at both the state and national level. Kowalski had brain damage, limited speech, and questionable competency. She and Thompson had been domestic partners since 1979. Thompson had a background in physical therapy and moved Kowalski back to their home for rehabilitation. But in 1984, Kowalski’s parents attained guardianship, relocated Kowalski, and refused Thompson visitation. Thompson filed for guardianship in August 1989 and a lengthy court battle ensued. Eventually the story attracted national attention. Thompson spoke in several cities and universities across the country and at medical and women’s conferences (“Karen Thompson speaking schedule February to June,” 1988). Local outcry filled the community press, and eventually the local papers. The story repeatedly made national news, with articles appearing in the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Newsday, and the Minneapolis Star Tribune (articles in Thompson-Kowalski: Minn. box, Tretter Collection, University of MN Libraries). Lambda, a national legal organization for gay and lesbian legal rights, became involved as did the Minnesota Civil Liberties Union and NOW (Lambda Legal Defense & Education Fund News Release, September 21, 1990, National Organization of Women News Release, September 21, 1990). In 1991 Thompson was awarded limited guardianship and allowed to move Kowalski to a skilled care facility in the Minneapolis area. The case appeared resolved in 1992 when Thompson was awarded guardianship, but continued into 1993, spanning a decade of legal debate (“What Will It Take to Finally Bring Sharon Home?,” 1993). The Kowalski-Thompson story supported the macropolitical status of same-sex partner benefits and legal protections. By “putting a face” to the

Advocacy Coalitions


internal needs of the LGBT community, their story added to the momentum to shift deep structures within systems and alter equilibrium. History shows the local media also played a central role in the change process as it evolved. The largest local gay press at that time was Equal Time, and the newspaper covered the unfolding events of the Minneapolis ordinance and other efforts to secure domestic partner benefits on multiple fronts. From 1990 until the paper was retired from press in 1994, Equal Time provided the most consistent media coverage. Stories also occasionally appeared in the local Minneapolis Star Tribune and St. Paul Pioneer Press. Ultimately, the culmination of events, leadership, and political advocacy efforts influenced shifts in the policy landscape in Minnesota. Uncertainty and instability created an opportunity within which policies could be challenged and reshaped as common mutual goals were attained through effective leadership and mobilization, and new stakeholders who shared common beliefs collaborated to realize policy changes in multiple settings.

Understanding ACF and PE theory and the process of attaining legal protections for sexual minorities in Minnesota can guide and inform future efforts toward the preservation of and expansion of civil rights, including advancing same-sex marriage. In this case analysis several factors converged and interacted to support a progressive policy shift toward same-sex civil rights. This analysis suggests that utilizing ACF and PE theory to proactively plan change strategies could effectively move policy change forward by recognizing and tactically guiding specific aspects of policy processes. Based on the case study and ACF and PE theory, I present five primary recommendations to inform future policy change efforts. These are useful for affirmative LGBT policy change in general, including the pursuit of legal recognition of same-sex marriage. Suggestions on key players and media support are based partly on Weible (2006). First, identify key players who have legal authority to change policy or have access to the legal system. Proponents for same-sex marriage need to recognize that potential benefits and costs of policy changes are not just in dollars and cents or about being fair, but also involve political costs and benefits. Participants in policy change processes need to strategically build their reputations and leadership to be able to later “cash in” when resistance to change occurs. Changing the status quo requires capable, trusted leaders who can articulate the benefits of change and a plan to attain change that promotes mutual gain without risk of deleterious outcomes. Second, change occurs over a significant period of time, and longstanding relationships arguably make collaboration possible. Identify and support


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demonstrated leaders and consistently establish a solid base of participatory and monetary resources. Coalition memberships may also cross subsystems, thus are particularly important according to ACF. In addition, it is useful to build relationships with new members or stakeholders in order to mobilize resources quickly in periods of instability when change may be possible, as PE suggests. It is also more crucial, as ACF posits, to identify members who may also have access to multiple subsystems. Third, this analysis demonstrates the importance of mutual goals and using community and media support. In promoting same-sex marriage, building positive media images and coverage is likely crucial to sway anti-LGBT public opinion, which sustains the deep structures of equilibrium. Strategize around building the coalitions of Iron Triangles focused on collaboration and utilize the multiple venues of public and private organizations, people, and media. Recognize that troubled periods within organizations and political campaigns can have a negative media effect. In this case study, I found that key leaders recognized the need to support one another in their common goals through periods of “bad press” and interagency politics, as well as supporting one another in electoral campaigns. Advocates need to build a positive reputation and alliances in the public eye throughout the policy change period; positive perceptions are critical when opportunities for policy change arise suddenly. Fourth, consider that core beliefs need to allow for basic agreement in the perception of the problem and strategies. While “deep core” beliefs rarely change, policy core beliefs can allow for compromises between subsystems and establish guidelines around behavior and reinforcing others’ efforts without leading to distrust and alienation of allies (Sabatier & Jenkins-Smith, 1999, p. 130). Understand the political positions of others and the importance of developing allies in policy change efforts by grounding alliances in shared values and beliefs regarding equality. Negotiation and discussion are steps toward policy change; focus on identifying shared values to establish and maintain trust. Fifth, as PE suggests, “crisis moments” occur during the policy process. Advocates for same-sex marriage need to think strategically about how to capitalize on aspects of personal events and how these interventions could alter equilibrium either negatively or positively. Coyle’s death could have precipitated defeat, but it seemed to reinforce commitment to the domestic partner effort. The Thompson-Kowalski case certainly was a timely issue, and drew national attention to same-sex domestic partner rights. When several events coincide, an issue can be brought to the “macro-political” level because of their public interest and highly visible nature. Some stories may “erupt,” such as the shooting tragedy of 15-year-old Lawrence King because he identified as a sexual minority, and can mark a potential period when equilibrium and deep structures may potentially shift. Coalitions need to be ready to enter the policy arena when these opportunities present themselves.

Advocacy Coalitions


Being prepared for crisis moments or eruptions is essential to contributing to growing awareness of inequality and actualizing policy change. This case study is limited in that it is a historical review of events in Minnesota, a traditionally democratic and generally politically liberal state. The Twin Cities are also a very culturally diverse urban area, accommodating many differences in its citizenry, and could account for more general acceptance of the LGBT community. The Minneapolis Equal Benefits Ordinance was “updated” in 2004 and maintains a domestic partner registry securing hospital/institutional visitation for couples within the city, and allows for some domestic partner employee benefits for city employees. However, a legal challenge in 1995 ruled that any municipal or county government in Minnesota cannot provide domestic partner health coverage to employees based upon a state law that defines “dependents.” Despite proposed legislation changes passing in the Minnesota Legislature that would have permitted local governments to make their own decisions regarding offering health benefits for domestic partners, current governor Tim Pawlenty vetoed such bills in 2007 and again in 2008. A legislative effort to reinstate domestic partner health care benefits for state employees was reintroduced and defeated in 2009. However, the governor did sign a Healthcare Access to Information Act that creates an additional legal protection for domestic partners. In addition, in 2009 the cities of Duluth and St. Paul instated domestic partner registries, bringing the number of cities in Minnesota that recognize same-sex relationships to three. Minnesota’s political landscape also has changed somewhat in recent years, and this was demonstrated in the 2008 elections. The growth and influence of both a strong Independent party, and a smaller, yet stable, Green party, indicates new stakeholders in the political arena. The same-sex marriage debate also has resulted in significant financial resources flowing across state lines during election periods. Advocacy efforts for same-sex marriage must accurately assess and strategize around the potential impact of third-party representation and economic influences in legislative and policy matters.

This case study suggests that Minneapolis and Minnesota’s policy process capitalized on resources and aspects described in ACF and PE theory. Minnesota remains a state that has successfully resisted efforts to amend the state constitution to ban same-sex marriage. It seems likely that this is directly connected to the longstanding political relationships built over time and with a constituency of Minneapolis residents who have experienced some measure of equal civil rights through the ordinance and state civil rights legislation. However, Minnesota has yet to adopt an amendment securing same-sex civil unions or a marriage equivalent.


L. Dziengel

Knowing how and when to capitalize on periods of instability and how to effectively use advocacy coalitions may be the key to achieve policy change and equal status of same-sex marriage. It is important to remember time and coalition-building with allies, along with patient persistence. Senator Spear, now deceased, played an integral role in these events and considered the addition of sexual orientation to Minnesota’s civil rights act his greatest legislative act. He offered these words of advice: “Unless you learn and respect the process, you are not going to accomplish what you want to do. You have to use it for your own goals” (Oberlin College, Spear personal history, 2006).

1993 Year in Review. December 30, 1993–January 6, 1994. Equal Time Issue #315. Located in box labeled Equal Time, 02/09/93 #297–06/01/94 #315. The Tretter Collection, Special Collections and Rare Books. University of Minnesota Libraries, Twin Cities. Agenda for the City Council, January 23, 1991. Located in Domestic Partners box, file labeled Minneapolis City Council Domestic Partners legislation, Tretter Collection. Balos Letter to Brian Coyle, May 18, 1990. Located in Domestic Partners box, file labeled Minneapolis City Council Domestic Partners legislation, Tretter Collection. Baumgartner, F. R., & Jones, B. D. (1991). Agenda dynamics and policy subsystems. The Journal of Politics, 53(4), 1044–1074. Bradford, J., Barrett, K., & Honnold, J. A. (2002). The 2000 Census and Same-sex households: A user’s guide. New York: The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Policy Institute, the Survey and Evaluation Research Laboratory, and The Fenway Institute. Carlson to Reappoint Task Force, April 12–April 26, 1991, p. 1. Equal Time Issue #235. Located in box labeled Equal Time, 31/08/90 #218–26/04/91 #235. Tretter Collection. City Council Amendment, July 30, 1990. Located in Domestic Partners box, file labeled Minneapolis City Council Domestic Partners legislation, Tretter Collection. Domestic Partner Legislation. Lambda Legal Defense Newsletter, May 1990. Located in Domestic Partners box, file not labeled. Tretter Collection. Domestic Partnership Battle Begins. August 17–31, 1990, p. 9. Equal Time Issue #218. Located in box labeled Equal Time, 31/08/90 #218–26/04/91 #235. Tretter Collection. Dziengel, L. E. (1990). Domestic partner ordinance: City of Minneapolis: A review and analysis. Unpublished manuscript. Gersick, C. J. G. (1991). Revolutionary change theories: A multilevel exploration of the punctuated equilibrium paradigm. The Academy of Management Review, 16(1), 10–36. Groundwork to Be Laid for 1993 Rights Push, January 7–January 31, 1992. Equal Time Issue #255. Located in box labeled Equal Time, 03/01/92–31/07/92 #268. Tretter Collection.

Advocacy Coalitions


Hurray! Lesbians and Gay Men Win Partnership Registration in Minneapolis. 1991. Equal Time Issue #230, pp. 1. Located in box labeled Equal Time, 31/08/90 #218–26/04/91 #235. Tretter Collection. Johnson Breaks from IR Ranks with Senate Speech. April 9–April 23, 1993. Equal Time Issue #287. Located in box labeled Equal Time, 26/02/93 #283–26/08/93 #296. Tretter Collection. Jones, B. D., Baumgartner, F. R., & True, J. L. (1998). Policy punctuations: U.S. Budget Authority. The Journal of Politics, 60(1), 1–33. Karen Thompson speaking schedule February to June, 1988. Box labeled ThompsonKowalski/Minn. Tretter Collection. Lambda Legal Defense & Education Fund News Release. September 21, 1990. Box labeled Thompson-Kowalski/Minn. Tretter Collection. Letters to Editor, Equal Time. August 17–August 31, 1990. Equal Time Issue #218. Located in box labeled Equal Time, 31/08/90 #218–26/04/91 #235. Tretter Collection. Mayor Race Still Up for Grabs Despite Endorsement. June 4–June 18, 1993. Equal Time Issue #291. Located in box labeled Equal Time, 26/02/93 #283–26/08/93 #296. Tretter Collection. Minneapolis City Council Domestic Partners Legislation folder, Domestic Partner box. Tretter Special Collection. Minneapolis Employees to Get Full Partner Benefits. September 2–September 9, 1993, pp. 1, 3. Equal Time Issue #298. Located in box labeled Equal Time, #297-unknown. Tretter Collection. Minneapolis Library Board Approves Partner Benefits, December 9–December 16, 1993. Equal Time Issue #312, p. 1. Located in box labeled Equal Time, 02/09/93 #297–06/01/94 #315. Tretter Collection. National Committee to Free Sharon Kowalski News Release. January 6, 1988. Box labeled Thompson-Kowalski/Minn. Tretter Collection. National Organization for Women News Release. September 20, 1990. Box labeled Thompson-Kowalski/Minn. Tretter Collection. National Organization for Women News Release. March 15, 1991. Box labeled Thompson-Kowalski/Minn. Tretter Collection. News Release Hennepin County Commissioner. June 2, 1992. Domestic Partner box, file labeled Minneapolis City Council Domestic Partners Legislation. Tretter Collection. Resolution of the City of Minneapolis. January 11, 1991. Domestic Partner box, file labeled Minneapolis City Council Domestic Partners Legislation. Tretter Collection. Oberlin College Personal History. Allan Spear. Retrieved December 1, 2006, from histories/Spear and oamcurrent/oam fall 00backyard02.htm. Sabatier, P. A., & Jenkins-Smith, H. C. (1999). The advocacy coalition framework: An assessment. In P. Sabatier (Ed.), Theories of the policy process (pp. 117–166). Boulder, CO: Westview Press. School Board Sets Precedent. October 14–October 21, 1993. Equal Time Issue #304. Located in box labeled Equal Time, 2/9/03 #297–6/1/94 #315. Tretter Collection.


L. Dziengel

Sexual Orientation Legislation to Face Its First Test. April 12–April 26, 1991, pp. 1, 7. Equal Time Issue #235. Located in box labeled Equal Time, 31/08/90 #218–26/04/91 #235. Tretter Collection. Spear, A. Legislative History. Retrieved December 1, 2006, from us/lrl/histleg/spres.asp. Star Tribune article. May 23, 1990. Domestic Partners Box, unlabeled file. Tretter Collection. State Prohibitions on Marriage for Same-sex Couples, Statewide Marriage Laws, Relationship Recognition in the U.S., Statewide Anti-Discrimination Laws & Policies, Statewide Hate Crime Laws, and Executive Summary (2006). Human Rights Campaign. Retrieved November 26, 2006, from ContentGroups/News Releases/20042/leg report032004.pdf. Testimony for Public Hearing on Domestic Partner Ordinance, 7/30/90. Located in Domestic Partners box, file labeled Minneapolis City Domestic Partner Legislation. Tretter Collection. Timeline for Civil Rights Legislation. April 9–April 23, 1993. Equal Time Issue #287. Located in box labeled Equal Time, 26/02/93 #283–26/08/93 #296. Tretter Collection. True, J. L, Jones, B. D., & Baumgartner, F. R. (1999). Punctuated equilibrium theory: Explaining stability and change in American policy making. In P. Sabatier (Ed.), Theories of the policy process (pp. 97–115). Boulder, CO: Westview Press. U of M Gays, Lesbians Get Near Parity Benefits. September 23–September 30, 1993, p. 1. Equal Time Issue #300. Located in box labeled Equal Time, 2/9/93 #297–6/1/94 #315. Tretter Collection. Weible, C. M. (2006). An advocacy coalition framework approach to stakeholder analysis: Understanding the political context of California marine protected area policy. Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, 17, 95–117. What Will It Take to Finally Bring Sharon Home? March 5, 1993, p. 1. GAZE. Box labeled Thompson-Kowalski: Minn. Tretter Collection.

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