Public Religions and Same Sex Marriage

Thursday, July 17, 2014: 10:45 AM
Room: Harbor Lounge B
Oral Presentation
Alphia POSSAMAI-INESEDY , University of Western Sydney, Australia
Bryan TURNER , Australian Catholic University, Australia
It is widely recognized that marriage, and more generally family life, has changed profoundly in the last half century. The causes of change are very diverse but one important issue has been legal change. The introduction of no-fault divorce in the post-war years contributed to the rapid increase in divorce, and more recently the idea that same-sex marriage will be sanctioned by law has stirred up significant public controversy.  

Debates around the legal recognition of same sex-marriage and other related matters such as the legal argument in Germany and California that circumcision constitutes physical abuse of the child have only served to unite and unify otherwise separate and disconnected religious groups – fundamentalist Christians, ultra-orthodox Jews and conservative Muslims. This eruption of religious issues into the public domain – over creationist teaching in schools, veiling in public, circumcision, gay marriage, and Shari’a law – illustrates the ideas of ‘public religions’ (Casanova, 1994) and appears to confirm recent commentaries on post-secularism.  The argument presented by Habermas (2008) of post-secularity  will be used as a framework to examine the impact of religion as a cultural resource in debate and decision making in the public sphere.  The proposed paper seeks to examine whether the inclusion of religious and spiritual arguments in the public debate on same sex marriage positively influences, as Habermas claims, the democractic quality of deliberative outcomes and contribute to the enhancement of social cohesion or whether on the contrary public religions play a divisive role in democratic debate.

Our paper draws on an Australian  research grant to study the same-sex marriage debate in Australia and New Zealand, and on a second grant proposal to undertake a comparative study of legal change in relation to marriage in Australia, France and the United States