The Right Stuff? Assessing the Use of Rights Discourse in Same-Sex Marriage Ballot Measure Campaigns | J Mello | Polity

Proponents of same-sex marriage won four of five ballot measure campaigns in U.S. states in 2012. Many observers have argued that these victories occurred because advocates of marriage equality shifted away from rights-based appeals, and instead framed their cause as being about family, love, and commitment. This article tests this claim by examining campaign documents used in the nine marriage equality ballot measure campaigns that took place from 2008 to 2012. I find little correlation between the use of equal rights discourse and electoral failure, and argue that other factors may account for the observed differences in results. I argue that the popular narrative that the rights discourse was counter-productive to efforts to advance marriage equality is overly simplistic and possibly false.

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