Date of Award

5-2011

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Science (BS)

Department

Sociology, Social Work, and Anthropology

First Advisor

Dr. Ann Austin

Abstract

This research study examined the conditions under which direct democracy advanced versus impeded gay relationship rights. Many policy makers argue that direct democracy works to create a “tyranny of the majority” in which the majority impedes the rights of minority citizens. However, other researchers disagree and note that direct democracy contests advance gay rights as seen in Switzerland (Frey & Goette, 1998). I hypothesize that direct democracy advanced gay relationship rights legislation when influenced by non-traditional norms regarding family and gender, and/or the contests occurred in states or cantons that were heterogeneous in their values, while direct democracy hindered gay relationship rights legislation when influenced by traditional norms regarding family and gender, and/or the contests occurred in states or cantons that were homogeneous in their values. To study this topic I conducted a comparative historical analysis of the gay relationship rights initiatives that appeared on state, canton, and national ballots in the United States and Switzerland between 2000 and present. I then examined whether significant differences were seen between the contests in the United States and Switzerland that either advanced or hindered gay relationship rights legislation. Within the United States it was discovered that when direct democracy was used to determine marriage amendments and/or marriage laws, the rights of gay and lesbian individuals were continuously obstructed. This type of outcome was not experienced in Switzerland when similar rights were put to the public vote, as direct democracy, in certain instances, advanced the rights of gay and lesbian individuals.

Comments

This work made publicly available electronically on September 16, 2011.