The Battle over Marriage

Gay Rights Activism through the Media
Author: Leigh Moscowitz
The impact of news coverage on gay rights activists' aims and messages
Paper – $27
eBook – $19.95
Publication Date
Cloth: 11/25/2013
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About the Book

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.

About the Author

Leigh Moscowitz is an assistant professor of communication at the College of Charleston.


"A comprehensive, engaging, and required study for those interested in same-sex marriage, social activism, journalism, media studies, and the benefits and consequences of visibility. Highly Recommended."--Choice

“The book provides an invaluable road map for historians who are interested in traversing the maze of developments that led to gay marriage as it came to be defined in 2013.”--American Journalism

"As Leigh Moscowitz illustrates, some of the most prominent debates have taken place in the mass media, and thus, much of the story of same-sex marriage has been shaped by the early 21st-century mass media environment and journalist norms. . . . Moscowitz effectively shows that when activists pushed for same-sex marriage on a national stage in 2003-2004, they chose to present gay and lesbian couples as mainstream, White, middle-class, and embodying essentially conservative values. . . . The Battle Over Marriage is well worth the read."--Journalism

"Highly accessible, well-written, and engaging, Moscowitz's The Battle Over Marriage proves to be a very thought provoking book that depicts the evolution of coverage and the debate surrounding marriage equality in America. This is a must read for scholars of LGBT studies, social change, family studies, and anyone with an interest in understanding the power of the media in shaping public discourse and attitudes."--Contemporary Sociology

"An invaluable road map for historians who are interested in traversing the maze of developments that led to gay marriage as it came to be defined in 2013."--American Journalism


"A very significant contribution to advancing understanding of media coverage of gay marriage. Moscowitz presents a controversial topic in a way that lets the facts and players speak for themselves."--Felix F. Gutierrez, coauthor of Racism, Sexism, and the News Media: Multicultural Issues into the New Communications Age