From media frame to social change? A comparative analysis of same-sex rights in the United States and New Zealand press
On 26 April 2005, The Civil Union Bill officially granted registered same-sex couples in New Zealand recognition and relationship rights that are equal to that of traditional marriage. In a relatively short time, the country was successful in its pursuit for same-sex equality while the United States has continued to remain at an impasse. While there are cultural differences between the two countries, this research explores how newspapers in New Zealand and the United States represented same-sex rights during the last two years — a critical period of crisis for the gay and lesbian community in both countries. In doing so, this research argues that media, and news in particular, are an authoritative version of reality that specializes in orchestrating everyday consciousness, particularly at times of crisis. At these critical moments the public depend upon media to provide information about issues in which they may not have direct experience. This research examined content variables within four news frames: conflict, human interest, morality and responsibility. The results revealed content in New Zealand newspapers that was more favourable to the legal equality of same-sex couples than in the American press. The paper concludes by questioning the impact this content may have had on social policy.