Objectives. A common critique of direct democracy posits that minority rights are endangered by citizen legislative institutions. By allowing citizens to directly create public policy, these institutions avoid the filtering mechanisms of representative democracy that provide a check on the power of the majority. Empirical research, however, has produced conflicting results that leave the question of direct democracy's effect on minority rights open to debate. This article seeks to empirically test this critique using a comparative, dynamic approach.
Methods. I examine the diffusion of same-sex marriage bans in the United States using event-history analysis, comparing direct-democracy states to non-direct-democracy states.
Results. The results show that direct-democracy states are significantly more likely than other states to adopt same-sex marriage bans.
Conclusion. The findings support the majoritarian critique of direct democracy, suggesting that the rights of minority groups are at relatively higher risk under systems with direct democracy.