In the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s landmark decision Obergefell v. Hodges (2015), legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide, many commentators highlighted increasing resistance to the ruling. Some observed typical public backlash, but others noted targeted LGBTQ rights bills from state legislators. While much of the scholarly literature suggests that public backlash is short-lived and tends to resolve toward Supreme Court doctrine, less clear is the impact of state legislative efforts following judicial decisions. To help clarify this discrepancy, this research examines the effect of Obergefell on state bill proposals. I argue that Obergefell acts as a trigger for state legislators to employ LGBTQ issues for symbolic purposes. In particular, I expect that LGBTQ-related state legislative proposals will increase after Obergefell, continuing long after mass public opinion has legitimated the Court’s decision. I employ pre- and post- Obergefell data on mass opinion and state legislative bill proposals. Public opinion data on same-sex marriage is derived from a variety of national polls beginning in 2010. For state-level attitudes, I employ data from the American Values Atlas. Using Nexis Uni, I also identify all state legislative bill proposals on LGBTQ-related issues from 2010 to 2022 and use the Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count (LIWC) program to scan these bills for positive and negative emotional language. This research has implications for understanding the effect of Supreme Court policymaking on state-level elite behavior, which broadly impacts voter attitudes and engagement in politics.
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Sinning, Kaden, "The Symbolic Politics of Same-Sex Marriage Legalization" (2022). Honors Projects. 829.