Skip to main content
Unpublished Paper
Harvey Milk, Jane Roe, and James Brady: Why Civic Organizing Matters
ExpressO (2010)
  • palma joy strand
This Article presents a view of the civic underpinnings of law by examining how civic interaction or the lack of such interaction facilitates or inhibits sociolegal change. The Article begins with empirical observations of civic experience and engagement, which ground more general conclusions about the importance of civic relationships and civic networks as well as the way personal stories contribute to the creation of both. The Article then applies these conclusions to three currently contentious and unsettled issues: gay rights, abortion, and guns. As to gay rights, the “coming out” process identified with Harvey Milk has transformed the civic landscape, providing a foundation for shifts in law and social norms. As to abortion, privacy—symbolized by the anonymity of the plaintiff in Roe v. Wade—has suppressed the articulation and sharing of personal stories necessary for civic growth; the result has been law and social norms that remain in limbo. As to guns, James Brady as a spokesman fails to tap into a cultural world view of interconnection and egalitarianism that is increasingly seen as underlying a belief that there is a need for greater gun control. With respect to all of these issues, the Article concludes that civic organizing—the intentional creation of civic relationships and civic networks through personal stories—will facilitate the emergence of stable law and social norms.
  • civic engagement,
  • civic networks,
  • civic organizing,
  • gay rights,
  • abortion,
  • gun control
Publication Date
March 21, 2010
Citation Information
palma joy strand. "Harvey Milk, Jane Roe, and James Brady: Why Civic Organizing Matters" ExpressO (2010)
Available at: