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Gay Rights at the Ballot Box

2012
Author:

Amy L. Stone

Gay Rights at the Ballot Box

From Boulder in 1974 to Maine Question 1 in 2009, the first comprehensive history of the LGBT movement’s fight against anti-gay ballot measures

Gay Rights at the Ballot Box examines how the tactics of LGBT activists have evolved, unraveling the complex relationship between ballot measure campaigns and the broader goals of the LGBT movement. Amy L. Stone draws on archival research and interviews with LGBT activists to provide a detailed account of the campaigns to stop such ballot measures from passing into law.

Amy L. Stone crafts a compelling, deeply textured portrayal of the more than 200 anti-gay ballot campaigns in the U.S. since 1974. Through interviews with movement leaders and other sources, Stone deftly analyzes the tension between winning campaigns and building a sustainable movement, between national, urban activists and local, rural communities, as well as debates over tactics and messaging. Gay Rights at the Ballot Box is essential reading for anyone seeking to understand the central, disturbing role anti-gay politics has played in contemporary U.S. politics.

Sean Cahill, Ph.D., Fenway Institute and New York University

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.

Gay Rights at the Ballot Box

Amy L. Stone is assistant professor of sociology at Trinity University in San Antonio.

Gay Rights at the Ballot Box

Amy L. Stone crafts a compelling, deeply textured portrayal of the more than 200 anti-gay ballot campaigns in the U.S. since 1974. Through interviews with movement leaders and other sources, Stone deftly analyzes the tension between winning campaigns and building a sustainable movement, between national, urban activists and local, rural communities, as well as debates over tactics and messaging. Gay Rights at the Ballot Box is essential reading for anyone seeking to understand the central, disturbing role anti-gay politics has played in contemporary U.S. politics.

Sean Cahill, Ph.D., Fenway Institute and New York University

Offers smart, well-researched insight into how we may be able to make changes moving forward.

Instinct Magazine

The chapters on the history of right-wing attacks, the extended Michigan cases, and conservatives’ racist and transphobic smear tactics are especially enlightening, but throughout, Stone writes accessibly about big ideas and everyday actions increasingly central to US politics.

Choice

Gay Rights at the Ballot Box is in many ways a model book. It is solidly researched—combining interviews with hundreds of campaign workers with close readings of campaign slogans and literature—clearly written, and extraordinarily accessible to undergraduates or general readers. It is a welcome addition to a literature that still pays too little attention to electoral politics, even in an era when voters have delivered the LGBT movement its most stunning defeats. It would also be a useful addition to courses considering social movement theory or U.S. gay and lesbian history.

Journal of American History

This book is a well-written, engaging study of an important contemporary social movement that should find a home in undergraduate and graduate syllabi and on the shelves of social movement scholars.

American Journal of Sociology

Stone’s assessment of personality dynamics, campaign tactic co-option, and triangulation is masterful. Her ability to uncover the at times frayed relations between members within the LGBT community is intriguing and enlightening. Stone’s words conjure up a fierceness and eloquence that is refreshing. Her analyses overall represent a triumph for interdisciplinary work.

New Political Science

Gay Rights at the Ballot Box

Contents


Acknowledgments

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

1. From Anita Bryant to California Proposition 8: The Religious Right’s Attack on LGBT
Rights

2. An Uphill Battle in the 70s and 80s: Building LGBT Movement Infrastructure

3. Fighting the Right in the 90s: Developing Sophisticated Campaigns

4. A Winning Streak: Teaching Campaign Tactics, Building Statewide Organizations,
and Spreading Victories

5. Losing at Same-Sex Marriage: Rethinking Ballot Measure Tactics

6. Smears, Tears, and Queers: Race and Transgender Inclusion in Campaigns

Conclusion: The Future of Gay Rights at the Ballot Box

Notes
Index