This study analyzes public hearings about same-sex marriage to show how the contexts that are established for citizens' and legislators' talk make arguments about the issue being disputed. Situated within the traditions of argument studies and discourse analysis, the article explores different meanings of “context.” The study evidences how two sets of context features created positive (or negative) stances toward the issue of same-sex marriage, and shows that how the controversy was formulated and how participation was designed gave distinct advantages to speakers advocating for (or against) same-sex marriage. The final section draws out implications of these legislative choices for citizen presenters and for the officials themselves as the enactors and guardians of democratic process.

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