November 13, 2008

Tracking the Battle Over Same-Sex Marriage in the News

% of Newshole
CA Court Rules May 12-18 3.2
Marriages Begin Jun. 16-22 2.4
Prop 8 Bans Nov. 3-9 1.6

50%—The vote to ban gay marriage in California got half the press of the earlier ruling that allowed it.

On May 15, the California Supreme Court ruled that a ban on same sex marriage was unconstitutional. The decision sparked celebrations, protests, and significant national attention. The debate and reaction triggered by that ruling was the fourth most-covered story that week, filling 3.2% of the overall newshole, according to PEJ’s News Coverage Index for May 12-18.

The High Court’s ruling went into effect on June 17. Wedding ceremonies began almost immediately, catapulting the issue into the headlines once again. That week, June 16-22, the subject of same-sex unions, including of the marriage of Star Trek luminary George Takei, filled 2.4% of the newshole, and was the ninth- biggest story in that period.

The saga took another turn on Election Day, when California voters narrowly approved Proposition 8, a measure banning same-sex marriage, by a margin of 52.5 to 47.5%. Coverage of that verdict, as well as protests from gay rights activists, filled 1.6% of the newshole from Nov. 3-9, making it the seventh- biggest story that week. In the end, the vote rejecting gay marriage in California generated only half the coverage of the ruling allowing it. But with some gay rights supporters vowing to press on, possibly with legal action, the story is not likely to go away soon.

Tricia Sartor and Dana Page of PEJ