Making the link: Secular democracy, human rights and the cases of marriage equality and abortion rights

Research output: Book chapter/Published conference paperChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


This chapter employs a comparative case study analysis of the changing abortion laws in the Republic of Ireland and the USA in recent years, and the Australian Marriage Equality Plebiscite in 2017 and the Same-Sex Marriage Campaign in the UK in 2013. Underpinned by a feminist social constructivist position the case studies demonstrate the influence of Christian right factions on USA and Australian politics, the resulting failure of secularism, and subsequent attacks on democratic rights and freedoms for women who want the right to choose abortion, and the rights of gays and lesbians to marriage equality. Significantly, our analysis indicates that individual religiosity in populations does not cause a failure of secularism. Conservative government, where members are religious, can formulate inclusive and representative legislation where democratic and secular rationality are maintained. Indeed, the case of Ireland found that a woman’s right to choose an abortion was protected when democratic, secular processes were upheld by government (not religious) leadership. The case of marriage equality in the UK, similarly, demonstrates that conservative and religious government representatives can frame same-sex marriage positively and grant same-sex couples full citizenship using secular ideals.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationGender, Feminist and Queer Studies
Subtitle of host publicationPower, Privilege and Inequality in a Time of Neoliberal Conservatism
EditorsDonna Bridges, Clifford Lewis, Elizabeth Wulff, Chelsea Litchfield, Larissa Bamberry
Place of PublicationNew York
Number of pages15
ISBN (Electronic)9781003316954
ISBN (Print)9781032328294
Publication statusPublished - 2024


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