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California's Ban on Same-Sex Marriage: The Campaign and its Effects on Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Individuals


  • This research was funded through a grant from the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law, and by a National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) predoctoral National Research Service Award (F31 MH084381) awarded to the first author.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Natalya C. Maisel, Center for Health Care Evaluation, VA Palo Alto Health Care System (152MPD), 795 Willow Road, Menlo Park, CA 94025 [e-mail address:].


When an anti-gay initiative is on the ballot, lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) individuals must contend not only with the tangible consequences if the initiative passes (e.g., a lack of rights) but also with the stress of the campaign itself. The current research examined the consequences of the campaign associated with California's Proposition 8 on LGB individuals’ well-being and personal relationships. LGB participants (N= 354) completed a survey in the 5 days before the 2008 election. In both quantitative results and open-ended responses, participants revealed much personal ambivalence. Participants reported experiencing both negative and positive emotions (e.g., anger, pride) and were particularly ambivalent regarding the effect of Proposition 8 on relationships with friends, family, coworkers, and their intimate partner. The campaign created opportunities for support but also opportunities for stigmatization and conflict. These results demonstrate the powerful effects that campaigns themselves, and not just outcomes, have on targeted individuals.