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Gay Rights at the Ballot Box

Amy L. Stone

Publication Year: 2012

The passage of the anti-gay marriage Proposition 8 in California in 2008 stunned gay rights activists across the country. Although facing a well-funded campaign in support of the ballot measure, LGBT activists had good reasons for optimism, including the size and strength of their campaign. Since 1974, the LGBT movement has fought 146 anti-gay ballot initiatives sponsored by the religious right and has developed innovative strategies to oppose these measures. In Gay Rights at the Ballot Box, Amy L. Stone examines how the tactics of LGBT activists have evolved and unravels the complex relationship between ballot measure campaigns and the broader goals of the LGBT movement.

The first comprehensive history of anti-gay ballot measures, both those merely attempted and those successfully put before voters, this book draws on archival research and interviews with more than one hundred LGBT activists to provide a detailed account of the campaigns to stop such ballot measures from passing into law. As Stone shows through in-depth case studies, although LGBT activists lost the vast majority of these fights, they also won significant statewide victories in Oregon in 1992 and Arizona in 2006, and local successes, including ones in Ypsilanti, Michigan, in 1998 and 2002.

Stone analyzes how LGBT activists constantly refined their campaign tactics in response to both victories and defeats. She also stresses that such campaigns have played both a complementary and contradictory role within the LGBT movement. Specific anti-ballot campaigns and the broader movement do often strengthen each other. However, ballot measure campaigns sometimes distract activists from the movement’s more general goals, and activists at the movement level can pressure local campaigns to take on more than they can handle. With gay rights coming under increasing assault from the religious right, this book is a vital resource for LGBT activists and others working to block their efforts.

Published by: University of Minnesota Press


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pp. 1-7


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pp. 8-9

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pp. ix-x

THIS BOOK IS THE PRODUCT of more than six years of research on the evolving arena of anti-gay ballot measures. My introduction to Michigan campaigns came in 2002, when I read the local LGBT newspaper headlines about nearby campaigns. First and foremost, this book could not have been finished without the contributions of the 100–plus LGBT organizers and leaders across the country who allowed me to spend hours asking ...


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pp. xi-xii

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INTRODUCTION: Winning (but Mostly Losing) at the Ballot Box

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pp. xiii-xxxi

November 4, 2008. The world watched as promising young, progressive Senator Barack Obama was elected president of the United States, sweeping the state of California. That same night, newscasters reported that Californians had passed Proposition 8, a statewide constitutional amendment that banned same-sex marriage. ...

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pp. 1-40

DIRECT DEMOCRACY, or the proposal and passage of laws through voters rather than legislators, has been a longtime tool of social movements, including those working to derail or restrict minority rights. The anti-gay Religious Right, a movement birthed in the late 1970s that had become a national movement by the early 1990s, has used direct democracy as a tool to effectively roll back LGBT rights. ...

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2. AN UPHILL BATTLE IN THE 70s AND 80s: Building LGBT Movement Infrastructure

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pp. 41-62

WHEN GAY AND LESBIAN RESIDENTS of Boulder, Colorado, were faced with a referendum on their recently passed nondiscrimination ordinance in 1974, they had no models to look to from previous campaigns. There were no former leaders of LGBT campaigns to call. The campaign had to persuade voters to support gay rights at a time when more than 70 percent of the nation believed ...

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3. FIGHTING THE RIGHT IN THE 90s: Developing Sophisticated Campaigns

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pp. 63-89

AS URVASHI VAID OBSERVES, 1992 to 1996 was indeed “the best of times and the worst of times.” In the midst of progress in media visibility and in the treatment of HIV/AIDS, the LGBT community was faced with the largest and most dramatic culture war against LGBT rights to date. A growing Religious Right targeted the LGBT movement in the name of “family values”; this right-wing backlash ...

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4. A WINNING STREAK: Teaching Campaign Tactics, Building Statewide Organizations, and Spreading Victories

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pp. 91-127

ON THE HEELS of the Romer v. Evans Supreme Court victory in 1996, the LGBT movement entered its first and only winning streak at the ballot box. During this time, it won the majority of direct legislation battles, and between 2001 and 2003, it won all local referendums and initiatives. These victories included the retention of an LGBT rights ordinance in Miami Dade County in 2002 ...

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5. LOSING AT SAME-SEX MARRIAGE: Rethinking Ballot Measure Tactics

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pp. 129-153

IN A CRUEL TWIST OF FATE, just as the LGBT movement was celebrating a series of victories between 2000 and 2002, it experienced the agony of defeat in the November 2004 general election. In this one election, more statewide anti-gay ballot measures were on states’ ballots and passed than in any previous election. The trend of losing ground in state elections continued ...

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6. SMEARS, TEARS, AND QUEERS: Race and Transgender Inclusion in Campaigns

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pp. 155-178

GAINESVILLE, FLORIDA, 2009. Between television shows, a commercial airs. Several children are frolicking on a carousel in the park. One small girl with long blonde hair jumps off the carousel and walks into the women’s restroom. A scruffy, unshaven man in a baseball cap and sunglasses follows her into the bathroom. The commercial warns the viewer that their “door ...

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CONCLUSION: The Future of Gay Rights at the Ballot Box

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pp. 179-183

BALLOT MEASURE CAMPAIGNS are difficult to fight. They take time, energy, and resources, along with the investment of thousands of volunteers. A victory may propel movement goals forward or stall the opposition. A defeat may demoralize followers, exhaust leaders, and set back movement goals. Although local ballot measures primarily have consequences for the local community, they may be perceived ...


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pp. 185-219


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pp. 221-234

E-ISBN-13: 9780816680207
E-ISBN-10: 0816680205
Print-ISBN-13: 9780816675487

Page Count: 272
Publication Year: 2012