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Back to the Future: Uses of History in Newspapers and Judicial Records on Marriage Equality
Unformatted Document Text:  between race equality and marriage equality. F INDINGS AND D ISCUSSION Research Questions and Expectations. The first and second research questions asked how the newspapers and judicial records used history to discuss marriage equality. Most of the newspapers’ and court’s uses of history matched the two categories suggested by previous scholarship: context or placement and analogy or comparison. Contextualizing history was almost twice as common as analogizing history, and it was more complex. The authors of news articles and judicial records used this kind of history (1) to provide context for the immediate political discourse on marriage, (2) to construct a narrative of the history and nature of marriage, (3) to construct qualities of gay and lesbian identity deemed relevant to marriage discourse, and (4) to place events within a narrative to make projections about the future of marriage and marriage discourse. The third research question asked what, if any, difference there was in the use of history during and after the trial to reflect, challenge, or attempt to shape notions of marriage (discussion of themes that encompassed all or most of the evidence assessed, including comparisons to miscegenation and coverture law, are not included in this paper). Themes of marriage that emerged from uses of history over time were both consistent and divergent in important ways. For the most part, uses of history reflected similar notions of marriage in both kinds of texts assessed, particularly during the trial when newspapers often reported on trial testimony. History was used by advocates of traditional marriage to reflect a universally, historically heterosexual institution; by advocates of marriage equality for same-sex couples to challenge the hegemony of such agreed-upon narratives; and by most authors of newspaper and judicial content to shape an understanding of marriage ideals that would include same-sex couples. With the exception of the supporters’ of Proposition 8 trial memorandum, most uses of history validated narratives that supported marriage equality. Yet the themes of marriage that emerged through history during and after the trial differed in focus. The four themes of marriage that were most prominent during the trial dealt broadly with the 11

Authors: Li, Anqi.
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between race equality and marriage equality. 
F
INDINGS
 
AND
 D
ISCUSSION
Research Questions and Expectations.   The first and second research questions asked how the 
newspapers and judicial records used history to discuss marriage equality. Most of the newspapers’ and 
court’s uses of history matched the two categories suggested by previous scholarship: context or 
placement and analogy or comparison. Contextualizing history was almost twice as common as 
analogizing history, and it was more complex. The authors of news articles and judicial records used this 
kind of history (1) to provide context for the immediate political discourse on marriage, (2) to construct a 
narrative of the history and nature of marriage, (3) to construct qualities of gay and lesbian identity 
deemed relevant to marriage discourse, and (4) to place events within a narrative to make projections 
about the future of marriage and marriage discourse.
The third research question asked what, if any, difference there was in the use of history during 
and after the trial to reflect, challenge, or attempt to shape notions of marriage (discussion of themes that 
encompassed all or most of the evidence assessed, including comparisons to miscegenation and coverture 
law, are not included in this paper). Themes of marriage that emerged from uses of history over time were 
both consistent and divergent in important ways.
For the most part, uses of history reflected similar notions of marriage in both kinds of texts 
assessed, particularly during the trial when newspapers often reported on trial testimony. History was 
used by advocates of traditional marriage to reflect a universally, historically heterosexual institution; by 
advocates of marriage equality for same-sex couples to challenge the hegemony of such agreed-upon 
narratives; and by most authors of newspaper and judicial content to shape an understanding of marriage 
ideals that would include same-sex couples. With the exception of the supporters’ of Proposition 8 trial 
memorandum, most uses of history validated narratives that supported marriage equality. 
Yet the themes of marriage that emerged through history during and after the trial differed in 
focus. The four themes of marriage that were most prominent during the trial dealt broadly with the 
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