The Framing of Gay Marriage

We all know that campaign issues are framed in the media based on what strategists and advisors think and prove with polling, is best and most effective.  Since the rise of expert strategists and pollsters along with multiple  advisors political candidates currently have varied levels of involvement with their own campaigns.  However, when it has come to politicized issues, such as abortion and immigration, at least some of the people that are chosen to represent the issues have been relevant to the issues, namely, women or immigrants.  This has not been the case for the majority of ads currently being aired for marriage equality.

This election cycle four states are voting on whether to legalize gay marriage or not and out of those four states “six of the seven ads broadcast have featured only straight people talking about the issue” (  This very purposeful campaign choice has many arguing that the commercials go against the root of the campaign, which is to create equality.  While these ads call for marriage equality they do so from the mouths of heterosexual couples, thus keeping gay people and couples hidden and disassociated with the issue.   If gay people are kept from these ads it could help perpetuate the idea that being gay is not normal and thus not fit for television, even though, as the linked article above states, many mainstream shows feature gay people and couples.

While I know that framing is essential to how people view an issue I think it could be dangerous to associate the issue of marriage equality solely with straight couples when it comes to advertising.  On the other hand, the ads are clearly targeted to the independent and moderate voters who are necessary to passing gay marriage in the four states and might not be completely okay with seeing gay couples.  However, these ads raise the question of what comes first: policy changes or change in public opinion?

One of the few marriage equality ads that does feature a gay person was televised only in Maine and has garnered some media attention.

Yes on 1-Mainers United for Marriage

One reason that this advertisement for marriage equality has received so much attention is because it shows an openly gay firefighter being supported by all of the other men that he works with.  A large part of the resistance to allowing gay marriage is because it goes against the hegemonic institution of heterosexual marriage, which historically features one man and one woman.  There are various gender stereotypes that go along with heterosexual marriage the main one being that the man should be masculine and the woman should be feminine.  Gay marriage challenges these gender stereotypes, which makes some people uncomfortable and intolerant. The ad above not only challenges heterosexual marriage, but also hegemonic masculinity.  The main man featured is obviously strong and manly, because he’s a firefighter, but he is also openly gay, which goes against stereotypes of gay men making it an extremely effective ad. This commercial, while still framed, is an example of an effective marriage equality ad and should be shown in all the states voting on marriage equality because it will appeal to a large group of voters who are needed to pass gay marriage.

–Liza Hall


About rowlanda12

This is a blog about the 2012 presidential election. Content is generated by students in Professor Heldman's Politics 101 class. She does not necessarily endorse the views expressed here.
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