Movements and Countermovements
Social movements involve organized calls for social change. They are usually opposed by groups in society who disapprove of the proposed changes. A countermovement is a social movement that forms in opposition to another social movement. The larger and more consequential a social movement is, the more likely a countermovement will develop. For instance, in the United States a social movement to support respect and equality for gays and lesbians arose in the 20th century. By the early 21st century, this movement began to succeed in its goal of legalizing same-sex marriage. Massachusetts legalized same-sex marriage within the state in 2004, with several other states following suit. In 2015 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that all 50 states must recognize same-sex marriages. As the movement toward accepting and legalizing same-sex marriage progressed, groups around the country who felt this right was an affront to their religious beliefs began a countermovement to restrict the rights of LGBTQIA (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, or asexual) individuals. For example, so-called "bathroom bills" have been introduced in various states including North Carolina and Texas, seeking to deny transgender individuals access to public restrooms corresponding to their gender identity.
The struggles between movement and countermovement can last decades. Both movements and countermovements change in response to each other's gains and setbacks, as well as in response to external events. This can be seen in the history of racial oppression and civil rights in the United States. Starting in the early years of the nation, the abolition movement fought to outlaw slavery throughout the country. Events such as the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, which contained multiple provisions suppressing the rights of both free and enslaved African Americans and harsh penalties for people who helped slaves to escape, gave added energy to the abolitionist cause but also prompted some in the movement to shift their focus away from opposing slavery per se and toward preserving opportunities for free individuals who escaped from slavery. Meanwhile these changes, as well as events such as Nat Turner's slave rebellion in 1831 and John Brown's efforts to launch a slave revolt in 1859, gave energy to the countermovement opposing abolition. The clash of these movements culminated in the Civil War (1861–65). Throughout the over 150 years since the war, advocates of racial equality and advocates of white supremacy continued to fight numerous and varied battles. For instance, the civil rights movement grew after World War II and won important victories with legal decisions outlawing school segregation and passage of the Voting Rights Act and the Civil Rights Act. As the countermovement protested implementation of these laws, the civil rights movement pushed for further gains, such as affirmative action in employment and higher education admissions. Both movement and countermovement were also influenced by other trends in society, such as the rise of live television news coverage, the hippie movement, protests against the Vietnam War, and economic fallout from the 1973 OPEC oil crisis.