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The Faithful Divide Over Wedding Vows

A Profile of Michigan's 2004 Battle Over Marriage Equality

SOURCE: AP/Mindi Sokoloski

A gay couple is married in Boston in 2004. The strategies and alliances used to pass Proposal 2 in Michigan in 2004, which prohibited same-sex marriage, are worth exploring so that progressives in Michigan and other states can learn from these experiences.

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Download the introduction and summary (pdf)

On November 2, 2004, voters in Michigan approved a state constitutional amendment that prohibited same-sex marriage. The amendment, known as Proposal 2, passed with nearly 60-percent support and came after vigorous efforts by advocacy groups and faith communities on both sides of the issue.

Supporters of Proposal 2 raised more money and waged a stronger campaign than their opponents. Proposal 2 supporters also relied heavily on religious arguments, while their opponents tended to frame their arguments mainly in secular terms, such as issues of civil rights and social justice. Supporters also launched a late barrage of spending, mailings, and sermons. Their efforts were successful, and the proposal passed. Exit polls showed that religion played a significant role in the outcome.

Since 2004, there have been several consequences to passage of Proposal 2. One has been the denial of health care benefits to same-sex partners in civil unions. Although Proposal 2 supporters claimed the proposal was limited to marriage and would not take away health benefits, in fact it did.

A review of the battle over Proposal 2, the alliances it shaped, and the efforts and tactics involved not only provides insights into the ballot-initiative process, but, more importantly, may help illuminate similar campaigns in the future. The arguments, organizing strategies, and communications messages that worked, or didn’t work, for Proposal 2 in Michigan can serve as lessons in future struggles. This paper will explore those strategies so that progressives in Michigan and other states can learn from the experiences in this battleground over marriage equality.

Download the report (pdf)

Download the introduction and summary (pdf)

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