Over the past decade, the controversial issue of gay marriage has emerged as a primary battle in the culture wars and a definitive social issue of our time. The subject moved to the forefront of mainstream public debate in 2004, when San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom began authorizing same-sex marriage licenses, and it has remained in the forefront through three presidential campaigns and numerous state ballot initiatives. In this thorough analysis, Leigh Moscowitz examines how prominent news outlets presented this issue from 2003 to 2012, a time when intense news coverage focused unprecedented attention on gay and lesbian life.
During this time, LGBT rights leaders sought to harness the power of media to advocate for marriage equality and to reform their community's public image. Building on in-depth interviews with activists and a comprehensive, longitudinal study of news stories, Moscowitz investigates these leaders' aims and how their frames, tactics, and messages evolved over time. In the end, media coverage of the gay marriage debate both aided and undermined the cause. Media exposure gave activists a platform to discuss gay and lesbian families. But it also triggered an upsurge in opposing responses and pressured activists to depict gay life in a way calculated to appeal to heterosexual audiences. Ultimately, The Battle over Marriage reveals both the promises and the limitations of commercial media as a route to social change.