Institutional Paths to Policy Change: Judicial Versus Nonjudicial Repeal of Sodomy Laws

Udi Sommer*, Victor Asal, Katie Zuber, Jonathan Parent

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


What variables lead judicial and nonjudicial decision-making bodies to introduce policy change? In the theoretical framework proposed, the path-dependent nature of law has a differential impact on courts and legislatures. Likewise, certain political institutions including elections and political accountability lead those bodies to introduce policy change under dissimilar circumstances. Global trends, however, affect both institutional paths equally. We test this theory with data for the repeal of sodomy laws in all countries from 1972-2002. Results from two disparate multivariate models overwhelmingly confirm our predictions. The unique institutional position of courts of last resort allows them to be less constrained than legislatures by either legal status quo or political accountability. Globalization, on the other hand, has a comparable effect on both. This work is path breaking in offering a theoretical framework explaining policy change via different institutional paths, systematically testing the framework comparatively and with respect to a policy issue still on the agenda in many countries.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)409-439
Number of pages31
JournalLaw and Society Review
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2013


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