This study combines an interpretive history of culture and law, political philosophy and constitutional analysis to explain the background, development and growing impact of two challenging human rights movements: feminism and gay rights. The text argues that both movements are extensions of rights-based dissent, rooted in antebellum abolitionist feminism which condemns both American racism and sexism. It examines the role of dissident African Americans, Jews, women and homosexuals in forging alternative visions of rights-based democracy. The book draws attention to Walt Whitman's visionary poetry, exploring Whitman's impact on pro-gay advocates such as Havelock Ellis, Oscar Wilde and Andre Gide. It also discusses writers and reformers such as Margaret Sanger, Franz Boas, Elizabeth Stanton and Adrienne Rich. The study addresses recent controversies such as the exclusion of homosexuals from the military and from the right of marriage, and concludes with a defence of the struggle for such constitutional rights.