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Same-sex Marriage in China? The Strategic Use of Human Rights Norms and its Impact on LGBT Activism
Unformatted Document Text:  Same-sex Marriage in China? The Strategic Acceptance of a Human Rights Norm and its Impact on LGBT Activism Timothy Hildebrandt Department of Political Science University of Wisconsin-Madison Presented at the Midwest Political Science Association Annual National Conference April 2, 2009 **WORKING DRAFT: Not for attribution without author’s permission** Abstract: Using the case of same-sex marriage in China, this paper explores two fundamental questions: What might motivate a non-democratic state to promulgate a progressive human rights policy? And more importantly, when a non-democratic state adopts such policies, what might the impact be on activism? I argue that same sex marriage legislation, like other human rights issues, could be used strategically to improve China’s human rights reputation. I further suggest that studies on the strategic use of human rights norms, in focusing attention on the impacts on the norm itself have overlooked the impacts on domestic civil society; in promulgating a same-sex marriage policy the government might also, unintentionally, eliminate an issue around which Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans-gender/-sexual (LGBT) groups might coalesce issuing a blow to one sector of China’s fledgling civil society. 1

Authors: Hildebrandt, Timothy.
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Same-sex Marriage in China? 
The Strategic Acceptance of a Human Rights Norm 
and its Impact on LGBT Activism
Timothy Hildebrandt
Department of Political Science
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Presented at the Midwest Political Science Association Annual National Conference
April 2, 2009
**WORKING DRAFT: Not for attribution without author’s permission**
Abstract:  Using the case of same-sex marriage in China, this paper explores two fundamental 
questions:  What  might  motivate  a  non-democratic  state  to  promulgate  a  progressive  human 
rights  policy?  And more importantly, when a non-democratic state  adopts such policies, what 
might the impact be on activism? I argue that same sex marriage legislation, like other human 
rights issues, could be used strategically to improve China’s human rights reputation. I  further 
suggest that studies on  the strategic  use of human rights norms, in focusing  attention  on the 
impacts  on  the  norm  itself  have  overlooked  the  impacts  on  domestic  civil  society;  in 
promulgating a same-sex marriage policy the government might also, unintentionally, eliminate 
an  issue  around  which  Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual  and  Trans-gender/-sexual  (LGBT)  groups might 
coalesce issuing a blow to one sector of China’s fledgling civil society. 
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