Equals before the Law? Public Religion and Queer Activism in the Age of Judicial Politics in South Africa

In: Journal of Religion in Africa
Marian Burchardt Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity Göttingen Hermann-Föge-Weg 1137073 Göttingen Germany

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On a global scale, the politics around the recognition of same-sex relationships has turned into legal controversies while opposition to it is often framed in religious terms. This article takes the case of Christian mobilization around the legal recognition of same-sex marriage in South Africa to investigate the intertwinement of religious and sexual rights struggles. Linking the anthropology of law, the sociolegal literature on judicialization, and studies of public religion, it argues that both same-sex activism and religious mobilization should be understood in terms of judicial politics. The article analyses religious responses to lesbian and gay judicial activism and presents a typology that reveals the structured diversity of these responses in terms of public discourse, political strategy, and legal argument. Two dimensions are key to conceptualizing these responses: religious communities’ ontological concepts of the world, including ideas about human agency and God, and their relationships to the world, construed in terms of political habitus.

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