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Why State Constitutions Differ in their Treatment of Same-Sex Marriage

Author

Listed:
  • Lupia, Arthur
  • Krupnikov, Yanna
  • Levine, Adam Seth
  • Piston, Spencer
  • Hagen-Jamae, Alexander von

Abstract

Some states treat a same-sex marriage as legally equal to a marriage between a man and a woman. Other states prohibit legal recognition of same-sex marriages in their constitutions. In every state that has a constitutional restriction against same-sex marriage, the amendment was passed by a popular vote. The conventional wisdom about allowing voter participation in such decisions is that they yield constitutional outcomes that reflect attitude differences across states. We reexamine the attitude-amendment relationship and find it to be weaker than expected. In particular, we show that states vary in the costs they impose on constituencies that desire constitutional change. Some states impose very low costs (i.e., a simple majority of voters is sufficient for change). Other states impose very high costs (i.e., substantial legislative and voter supermajoriries are requires). We find that variations in the legal status of same-sex marriage across US states is better explained by these variations in costs than they are by differences in public opinion. Our method yields an improved explanation of why states differ in their constitutional treatment of same-sex marriage today. Our findings have distinct implications for people who wish to understand and/or change the future status of same-sex couples in state constitutions.

Suggested Citation

  • Lupia, Arthur & Krupnikov, Yanna & Levine, Adam Seth & Piston, Spencer & Hagen-Jamae, Alexander von, 2009. "Why State Constitutions Differ in their Treatment of Same-Sex Marriage," MPRA Paper 15096, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  • Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:15096
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    File URL: https://mpra.ub.uni-muenchen.de/15096/1/MPRA_paper_15096.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. repec:cup:apsrev:v:103:y:2009:i:03:p:367-386_99 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. John G. Matsusaka, 2005. "Direct Democracy Works," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 19(2), pages 185-206, Spring.
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    Blog mentions

    As found by EconAcademics.org, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
    1. Same-sex marriage and democracy
      by Economic Logician in Economic Logic on 2009-05-26 17:18:00

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    Cited by:

    1. Gebhard Kirchgässner, 2009. "Direkte Demokratie und Menschenrechte," CREMA Working Paper Series 2009-18, Center for Research in Economics, Management and the Arts (CREMA).
    2. Björn Kauder & Niklas Potrafke, 2017. "Conservative Politicians and Voting on Same-Sex Marriage," CESifo Working Paper Series 6706, CESifo Group Munich.
    3. John Matsusaka, 2014. "Disentangling the direct and indirect effects of the initiative process," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 160(3), pages 345-366, September.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    constitutions; same-sex marriage; political institutions; state politics;

    JEL classification:

    • H70 - Public Economics - - State and Local Government; Intergovernmental Relations - - - General
    • K0 - Law and Economics - - General
    • H11 - Public Economics - - Structure and Scope of Government - - - Structure and Scope of Government

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