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Back to the Future: Uses of History in Newspapers and Judicial Records on Marriage Equality
Unformatted Document Text:  Robert Shrum, who was a senior adviser to John Kerry's presidential campaign in 2004 when politicians were leveraging marriage as a wedge issue: “People have got comfortable with the idea” 144 of married same-sex couples since 2004, when only Massachusetts had extended marriage rights, “and [have gotten] increasingly uncomfortable with the idea of rank discrimination based on someone's sexuality.” 145 Most other comparisons drew on quantitative polling. 146 Newspapers likely devoted space to comparisons of public opinion because people’s attitudes influence public policy, though lawmakers’ views tend to lag behind the public’s. 147 As one Los Angeles Times article observed, President Obama’s shifting stance on marriage tracked closely with the public’s opinion of marriage equality. 148 Klarman reflected in an editorial that John F. Kennedy campaigned for civil rights only after 1963, when public opinion polls showed the number of Americans who considered civil rights a “No. 1 priority” had increased from four to 52 percent. 149 In light of the power voters have exercised in social reform, and in marriage discourse, reports that marriage equality for same-sex couples is growing in popularity may foreshadow yet another evolution in the institution of marriage. Comparing Political Climate and Events. Newspapers’ comparisons of political climate and events across time had implications for the forum and direction of marriage discourse. For example, one advocate of traditional marriage told the New York Times, “Two years ago, three years ago, you had some Republicans saying, ‘I don't see a threat from the courts. . . . Well, Walker made clear that the threat is not only coming, it is immediate.” 150 His observation, regardless of bias, underscored the changing political climate and forum of marriage discourse; when the first marriage case was brought by same-sex couples in Minnesota in the 1971, after all, it was “nearly laughed out of court.” 151 Although not all comparisons of political events implied a prediction of success for marriage equality advocates, 152 most did. After the repeal of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, the Los Angeles Times paraphrased Aaron Belkin, director of the Palm Center, a UC Santa Barbara think tank on gays in the military: “Most countries that allow gay marriage, he added, lifted their military bans on gays first.” 153 Belkin’s juxtaposition of rights for gays in the military and marriage rights for same-sex couples suggested the national movement for marriage equality would succeed. A New York Times story 21

Authors: Li, Anqi.
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Robert Shrum, who was a senior adviser to John Kerry's presidential campaign in 2004 when politicians 
were leveraging marriage as a wedge issue: “People have got comfortable with the idea”
 of married 
same-sex couples since 2004, when only Massachusetts had extended marriage rights, “and [have gotten] 
increasingly uncomfortable with the idea of rank discrimination based on someone's sexuality.
 Most 
other comparisons drew on quantitative polling.
Newspapers likely devoted space to comparisons of public opinion because people’s attitudes 
influence public policy, though lawmakers’ views tend to lag behind the public’s.
 As one Los Angeles 
Times article observed, President Obama’s shifting stance on marriage tracked closely with the public’s 
opinion of marriage equality.
Klarman reflected in an editorial that John F. Kennedy campaigned for 
civil rights only after 1963, when public opinion polls showed the number of Americans who considered 
civil rights a “No. 1 priority” had increased from four to 52 percent.
 In light of the power voters have 
exercised in social reform, and in marriage discourse, reports that marriage equality for same-sex couples 
is growing in popularity may foreshadow yet another evolution in the institution of marriage. 
Comparing Political Climate and Events.   Newspapers’ comparisons of political climate and 
events across time had implications for the forum and direction of marriage discourse. For example, one 
advocate of traditional marriage told the New York Times, “Two years ago, three years ago, you had some 
Republicans saying, ‘I don't see a threat from the courts. . . . Well, Walker made clear that the threat is not 
only coming, it is immediate.
 His observation, regardless of bias, underscored the changing political 
climate and forum of marriage discourse; when the first marriage case was brought by same-sex couples 
in Minnesota in the 1971, after all, it was “nearly laughed out of court.
Although not all comparisons of political events implied a prediction of success for marriage 
equality advocates,
 most did. After the repeal of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, the Los 
Angeles Times paraphrased Aaron Belkin, director of the Palm Center, a UC Santa Barbara think tank on 
gays in the military: “Most countries that allow gay marriage, he added, lifted their military bans on gays 
first.
 Belkin’s juxtaposition of rights for gays in the military and marriage rights for same-sex couples 
suggested the national movement for marriage equality would succeed. A New York Times story 
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