Volume 75, Number 5

November 2000

No Promo Homo: The Sedimentation of Antigay Discourse and the Channeling Effect of Judicial Review

William N. Eskridge, Jr.

John A. Garver Professor of Jurisprudence, Yale Law School. B.A., 1973, Davidson College; M.A., 1974, Harvard University, J.D., 1978, Yale University.

Arguments against equal rights for gay men, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgendered people have shifted from, “Those are bad people who do sinful, sick acts,” to “A progay reform would promote homosexuality.” Professor Eskridge’s article presents a history of this rhetorical shift, tying it to the rise of a politics of preservation by traditionalists seeking to counter gay people’s politics of recognition. Eskridge also shows how modern antigay discourse has become sedimented, as arguments are layered on top of (but never displace) each other. Evaluating the various forms no promo homo arguments can take, he maintains that the most obvious versions are not plausible, and that the most plausible are not constitutional. This archaeology of no promo homo discourse has interesting ramifications for constitutional theory and doctrine. Among then, as Eskridge concludes, is the way in which the channeling function of law not only changes group rhetoric, but also group identity, and helps the state “manage” polarizing culture clashes.