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Fighting Gays; Finding Freedom

The Christian Right Battle Against Same-Sex Marriage

by Peter Strandby

e-Book PDF
Institution: University of Southern Denmark Odense
Advisor(s): Ms. Vibeke Schou Tjalve, Ph.D.
Degree: M.A. in American Studies
Year: 2007
Volume: 108 pages
ISBN-10: 1599426587
ISBN-13: 9781599426587


Christian Right groups’ recent campaigns to ban same-sex marriage hide more than an antigay agenda, encompassing a much greater discussion on the meaning of American freedom. This thesis takes starting point in a conundrum formed by conservative Christian claims, defining personal freedom in a restriction of individual liberties. This authoritarian concept of freedom has not gone uncontested, and a current field for this semantic struggle lies within the national debate on same-sex marriage. Concordantly, the purpose is to analyse how the Christian Right justifies its opposition.

The current terrain is laid out by tracing the historical roots of two contradictory American traditions; one profoundly religious, holding roots in colonial Puritanism and one equally secularised, exemplified in classic liberalism; and each embodying a current discourse for and against same-sex marriage. Main focus is kept on the internal and public discourses defining Christian Right group’s negative position in the debate, as well as on the movement’s representation of the American state.

The concept of freedom is ambiguous, but by introducing a new analytical model, a historical conceptual analysis on the subject is carried out. Looking at religious representation of marriage and the historical changes this institution has undergone paving the way for the current debate, identifies the Christian Right’s interpretation of freedom; a concept calling for religious submission, moral virtue, and individual commitment towards community and the traditional family.

The Christian Right has successfully campaigned its negative stance on same-sex marriage. Early Christian Right activism resulted in the enactment of local antigay legislation through demeaning and strong religious rhetoric. Recently, such language has been abandoned on state and federal levels by adopting a Lockean discourse focusing on personal rights and liberties.

It is suggested, that even though the current Christian Right represents a genuine American tradition, its influence on the democratic polity is limited. While the movement will continue to find wide support among evangelicals, a broader support is only likely on an issue-by-issue basis, and only as long as these issues can be framed around the principles of personal liberty that seems to be the common political discourse. Here lies also the biggest challenge facing the Christian Right in this context; that by hiding its religious doctrine it simultaneously compromises its own concept of freedom.