Date of Award

Fall 2019

Degree Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Religion, PhD


School of Arts and Humanities

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Patrick Mason

Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member

Erika Dyon

Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member

Helene Slessarev-Jamir

Terms of Use & License Information

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Rights Information

© 2019 John M Erickson


Faith, Government, HIV/AIDS, Interviews, LGBT history, Politics

Subject Categories

Religion | United States History


This dissertation explores the new roles the LGBT movement took on in place of religious and faith-based communities. The new discourse behind the LGBT rights movement’s recent popularity and credibility in popular culture in the U.S. created a generation of activists who grew up both within and outside of religious communities that affirmed an individual’s sexuality as an important part of their identity rather than a sinful one. While newer generations of both closeted and open LGBT individuals and religiously affiliated men and women grew up knowing about the fight for and against gay marriage, equal rights, and fair and non-discriminatory treatment, the battle for LGBT rights was reduced, through various mediums like the media, the internet, and popular culture, as a battle between religion and the LGBT movement. This dissertation seeks to unravel the stories behind the various struggles each community, both religious and LGBT affiliated, has and is currently undergoing around the issues of equality and the inclusion of LGBT individuals in religious communities and traditions. It does this against the backdrop of the religious and faith-based communities that have traditional excluded LGBT individuals. Through this process of including individuals and communities on both sides of the LGBT issue, new constructive and effective discourses developed to further bridge the divide between religion and sexuality rather than creating a wider gap. As a result, both young and old individuals were forced to deal with the matter both publicly and privately. This exploration is grounded in the analysis of two years of ethnographic study with widely regarded experts and activists in the field LGBT equality, both within and outside of religious and faith-based communities. While the church and the LGBT community played a key role in creating the various narratives that put them at odds with each other, I focus on the experience of interviewees from within three time periods: post-Stonewall Inn Riots of 1969; the rise of the HIV/AIDS crisis at the height of the Religious Right and Moral Majority popularity in the late 1970s through the 1980s; and, lastly, the fight for marriage equality with the passage of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in 1996 to the United States Supreme Court Decision Obergefell v. Hodges which made same sex marriage legal nationwide. Beginning in the 1960s, gays and lesbians who left the churches of their youth created intentional communities of care that fulfilled many of the same human needs that their religious communities had while separating themselves from the negative stigmas attached to their sexuality in most traditionalist Christian congregations. Ironically, then, conservative Christian churches thus helped create the modern LGBT movement in America, imbuing it with a sense of not only political but also spiritual purpose.