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Framing Public Discussion of Gay Civil Unions
Unformatted Document Text:  Framing Public Discussion 9 civil unions. While opponents of gay rights emphasize morals and family values, supporters counter that “hatred is not a family value” (Brewer, 2002, p. 306). And in response to calls for equality for gay couples, social conservatives often cast their position as one favoring “equal rights, not special rights,” suggesting that gay rights advocates seek special treatment not granted to unmarried heterosexual couples (see, e.g., Gallagher & Bull, 1996, chapter 4). Research Questions and Hypotheses How do these alternatives – the “civil union / equal rights” frame and the “homosexual marriage / special rights” frame – shape the ways citizens think and talk about the issue? Although there are clear pro/con orientations implicit in both frames, with the former lending support and the latter opposition, we do well to note that a “frame typically implies a range of positions, rather than any single one, allowing for a degree of controversy among those who share a common frame” (Gamson & Modigliani, 1989, p. 3). Thus, we would not expect uniform positive or negative responses to the proposition that gay partnerships should be given legal standing based solely on adoption of one or the other frame; instead, we would expect to find general tendencies of groups to argue, predominately pro or con, in keeping with the general frame. We hypothesize that: H1: Groups responding to the proposition framed in terms of “homosexual marriage” and “special rights” will generate discourses that are more negative, in their opinionated statements and arguments, than those generated to the proposition when framed in terms of gay “civil unions” and “equal rights.” H2: Group discourses will not be uniform in adopting a given frame. Even when a given frame has been privileged by manipulation, alternative frames will nevertheless be invoked. Brewer (2002) for instance, found from an analysis of open-ended survey questions that respondents invoked both morality and equality concerns when asked about gay rights, even after exposure to news stories intended to frame their responses one way or the other.

Authors: Price, Vincent., Nir, Lilach. and Cappella, Joseph.
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Framing Public Discussion
9
civil unions. While opponents of gay rights emphasize morals and family values, supporters
counter that “hatred is not a family value” (Brewer, 2002, p. 306). And in response to calls for
equality for gay couples, social conservatives often cast their position as one favoring “equal
rights, not special rights,” suggesting that gay rights advocates seek special treatment not granted
to unmarried heterosexual couples (see, e.g., Gallagher & Bull, 1996, chapter 4).
Research Questions and Hypotheses
How do these alternatives – the “civil union / equal rights” frame and the “homosexual
marriage / special rights” frame – shape the ways citizens think and talk about the issue?
Although there are clear pro/con orientations implicit in both frames, with the former lending
support and the latter opposition, we do well to note that a “frame typically implies a range of
positions, rather than any single one, allowing for a degree of controversy among those who
share a common frame” (Gamson & Modigliani, 1989, p. 3). Thus, we would not expect
uniform positive or negative responses to the proposition that gay partnerships should be given
legal standing based solely on adoption of one or the other frame; instead, we would expect to
find general tendencies of groups to argue, predominately pro or con, in keeping with the general
frame. We hypothesize that:
H1: Groups responding to the proposition framed in terms of “homosexual marriage” and
“special rights” will generate discourses that are more negative, in their opinionated
statements and arguments, than those generated to the proposition when framed in
terms of gay “civil unions” and “equal rights.”

H2: Group discourses will not be uniform in adopting a given frame. Even when a given
frame has been privileged by manipulation, alternative frames will nevertheless be
invoked.
Brewer (2002) for instance, found from an analysis of open-ended survey questions that
respondents invoked both morality and equality concerns when asked about gay rights, even after
exposure to news stories intended to frame their responses one way or the other.


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