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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Voters’ Initiatives to Repeal or Prevent Laws Prohibiting Employment Discrimination Against LGBT People, 1974-Present

  • Author(s): Sears, Brad
  • Mallory, Christy
  • Hunter, Nan D.
  • et al.

One marker of the hostility and animus directed towards LGBT Americans is the proliferation of attempts to use state and local ballot measures to repeal or preclude protection against employment discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. The pattern of outcomes has slowly shifted in the last 30 years from a majority of these attempts succeeding to a majority failing. Nonetheless, proponents of workplace equality for the LGBT minority have had to respond – more frequently than any other group - to repeated, well-funded campaigns to erect barriers against basic civil rights protections.

According to University of Michigan political scientist Barbara S. Gamble, “[g]ay men and lesbians have seen their civil rights put to a popular vote more often than any other group. Almost 60 per cent of the civil rights[-related ballot] initiatives have involved gay rights issues… Of the 43 gay rights initiatives that have reached the ballot, 88% have sought to restrict the rights of gay men and lesbians by repealing existing gay rights laws or forbidding legislatures to pass new ones.”

In this chapter, we expand and update Gamble‟s analysis, documenting 120 ballot measures from 1974 to 2009. Most of these, 92, were at the local level, with 28 at the state level.

In this analysis we do not include the many ballot measures to repeal or prevent the extension of marriage to same-sex couples.

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