Date of Award

8-1-1997

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

Sociology and Anthropology

First Advisor

Dr. Lourdes Gouveia

Second Advisor

Dr. Mary Ann Lamanna

Third Advisor

Dr. Hollis Glaser

Abstract

This thesis applies Marxist, feminist, and Marxist-feminist sociological theory to the empirical case of the 1995 Nebraska Department of Social Services Interim Policy prohibiting lesbians and gay men from becoming foster parents in Nebraska. The intent of this thesis is to show how the above theories can provide explanations for the policy and answer the central question of why gay men and lesbians have been the target of this discriminatory policy. The methodology was based on interviews with key persons involved in the policy-making process as well as in constructing the discourse surrounding the entire process. In addition to the interviews, information for this thesis is based on archival data, such as memos, newspaper articles and letters, and meeting transcripts. Theoretical explanations of homophobia and heterosexism are applied in order to provide a more thorough understanding of the emergence of the policy. The questions of "why Nebraska?" and "why now (then)?" are also explored. Findings were that theoretical themes did emerge from the data. The following themes were found and analyzed: gay men and lesbians are seen as non-reproductive of workers and ideology; lesbians and gay men deviate from the dominant ideology (value system), and are therefore seen as dangerous to that ideology; the perception that gay men and lesbians are pedophiles; and the norm of compulsory heterosexuality. The predicted theme of the feminist construct of "devaluing the feminine" did not appear in the data analyzed. Moral panic literature was used to tie the macro-level to the micro-level, in order to explain how and why the policy emerged in Nebraska at the time it did.

Comments

A Thesis Presented to the Department of Sociology and Anthropology and the Faculty of the Graduate College University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree Master of Arts University of Nebraska at Omaha. Copyright Laura F. LaMarr August, 1997

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