Date of Completion


Embargo Period



Social movements, collective identity, framing, discourse, diversity, same-sex marriage

Major Advisor

Mary Bernstein

Associate Advisor

Nancy A. Naples

Associate Advisor

Davita Silfen Glasberg

Field of Study



Doctor of Philosophy

Open Access

Campus Access


This research provides a case study of a single social movement organization, Love Makes a Family (LMF), to examine the factors that contribute to social movement persistence and decline. The major theoretical traditions in U.S. social movement scholarship—resource mobilization theory and political process theory—explain movement decline as a consequence of competition over finite resources, and as a result of closing political opportunity structures, respectively. I find that LMF’s closure was dependent on a mediating variable, collective identity, that remains marginalized in structuralist accounts. Incorporating insight from structural and cultural approaches, I offer a historical processual account of social movements that views movement processes as episodic and unfolding in and through interaction. As activists engage their targets, they are constrained by dominant discourse and institutional logics that determine strategy selection and success. Strategies then hold consequences for subsequent movement processes, including decisions about persistence. I show how the closure of LMF corresponds to the narrowing of identity boundaries associated with key phases of movement development, and interaction with sympathists and antagonists, both routine and organized. I advance arguments made by social movement scholars about the relationship between collective identities, strategies, and goals. I also elaborate collective identity as it’s related to movement persistence, arguing that interests and emotions are integrally related. As activists perceive the resources and opportunities available to them in relations to their goals, it is the affective dimension of collective identity that signals when their work is done.