Skip to main content
Legal Consciousness and LGBT Research: The Importance of Law in the Everyday Lives of LGBT Individuals
Journal of Homosexuality (2012)
  • Nancy J. Knauer
The law occupies a prominent place in the everyday lives of LGBT individuals, and the continuing regulation and policing of sexuality and gender weighs heavily on many people who identify as LGBT. Despite remarkable progress in the area of LGBT civil rights, LGBT individuals in the United States still lack formal equality and are denied many of the protections that are afforded other historically disadvantaged groups. These legal disabilities represent an ongoing source of minority stress and can produce a correspondingly high degree of “legal consciousness” within the LGBT community. Given the importance of law in LGBT lives, it is not surprising that LGBT-related research often incorporates references to the legal status of LGBT individuals. Over the last several years, however, the pace of change in the area of LGBT civil rights has been so fast and uneven that it has become increasingly difficult to keep up with the most recent developments. This Essay is designed to offer an accessible framework for understanding the current state of LGBT civil rights in the United States, with a special focus on the question of relationship recognition. It explains the key concepts, provides some basic research guidelines, and suggests a number of helpful resources in order to ensure that the “legal consciousness” of LGBT-related research reflects the latest developments in the field.
  • legal consciousness,
  • LGBT,
  • LGBT civil rights,
  • same-sex marriage,
  • gay marriage,
  • civil union,
  • domestic partnership,
  • relationship recognition,
  • Perry v. Brown,
  • federalism,
  • designated beneficiary,
  • gay,
  • lesbian,
  • DOMA,
  • direct democracy,
  • Proposition 8,
  • hospital visitation
Publication Date
Citation Information
Nancy J. Knauer. "Legal Consciousness and LGBT Research: The Importance of Law in the Everyday Lives of LGBT Individuals" Journal of Homosexuality Vol. 59 Iss. 5 (2012)
Available at: