Humanities Center Director: Thomas Wilson

Jenna Reinbold

Visiting Assistant Professor of Religion, Colgate University

‘Sacred Institutions’ and Secular Law: Is There a Place for Religious Argument in the Same-Sex Marriage Debate?

Thursday, September 16, 2010 • 4:10pm • Taylor Science Center 3024

Conservative religious advocates have been at the forefront of the dispute over same-sex marriage in the US, yet our judicial system prohibits the use of predominantly religion-based arguments in political policymaking. Utilizing the recent  California same-sex marriage cases, this paper will explore the genesis of a popular secularized argument currently deployed by opponents of same-sex marriage: a quasi-social scientific argument focused upon “children’s welfare.” Ultimately, this paper will show that this argument – maligned by legal professionals and lay people alike – has become the sole legal discourse available to those Americans harboring a religious opposition to same-sex marriage. The children’s welfare argument thus represents more than a problematic legal tactic; it reveals an important dilemma at the heart of a judicial system that claims to champion both secularism and religious freedom.

Jenna Reinbold is Visiting Assistant Professor of Religion and Civic Life at Colgate University. She received her Ph.D at the University of California, Santa Barbara in Religious Studies with emphases in Global Studies and Law and Society. Her work centers upon intersections of religion and law, including domestic law within the US and international human rights law. Her recent publications include “Radical Islam and Human Rights Values: A ‘Religious-Minded’ Critique of Secular Liberty, Equality, and Brotherhood” (June 2010 in The Journal of the American Academy of Religion) and “Political Myth and the Sacred Center of Human Rights: The Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Narrative of ‘Inherent Human Dignity’” (forthcoming in Human Rights Review).

Sponsored by Dean of Faculty, the Yordán Lecture Fund, Religious Studies Department, and Diversity and Social Justice Project