The political limits of the rights frame: The case of same-sex marriage in Hawaii

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This article uses public debates over same-sex marriage in Hawaii to address gaps in the framing perspective on social movements. Drawing on both elite and nonelite discourses in the debates over same-sex marriage, the analysis demonstrates the dominance of the civil rights frame among supporters of same-sex marriage but finds that alternative discourses emerged among nonelite actors in response to evolving political conditions. Nonelite actors increasingly framed the issue as a question of tolerance and acceptance rather than rights. Opponents of same-sex marriage explicitly rejected the rights frame and countered with discourses of democracy and morality. This case highlights the impact of activist frames on broader public debates, but also the possibility of significant alternative frames that can only be discovered through attention to nonelite discourses. The case also suggests that dominant master frames that inform the discourses of social movements may constrain the framing efforts of activists within specific issue domains.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)207-232
Number of pages26
JournalSociological Perspectives
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2001

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2001 Pacific Sociological Association.


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