Why State Constitutions Differ in Their Treatment of Same-Sex Marriage
46 Pages Posted: 13 Aug 2009 Last revised: 27 Aug 2009
Date Written: 2009 8, 23
Some states treat a same-sex marriage as legally equal to a marriage between a man and a woman. Other states prohibit legal recognition of same-sex marriages in their constitutions. In every state that has a constitutional restriction against same-sex marriage, the amendment was passed by a popular vote.
The conventional wisdom about allowing voter participation in such decisions is that they yield constitutional outcomes that reflect attitude differences across states. We reexamine the attitude-amendment relationship and find it to be weaker than expected. We then develop an alternate explanation that focuses on procedural variations in how states amend their constitutions. Integrating this institutional information with attitudinal data yields an improved explanation of why states differ in their constitutional treatment of same-sex marriage today. Our findings have distinct implications for people who wish to understand and/or change the future status of same-sex couples in state constitutions.
Keywords: same-sex marriage, state politics, constitutions, public opinion, gay rights
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