"I do";"No you don't": Same-Sex Marriage and the Moral Arguments of American Christianities

Date of Award

August 2018

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Ernest E. Wallwork


Christian ethics, Christianities, marriage equality, Proposition 8, same-sex marriage

Subject Categories

Arts and Humanities


Same-sex marriage is currently legal in the United States. Americans have changed their minds in favor of same-sex marriage with unprecedented speed. Yet the largest Christianities—representing approximately 50% of Americans—still adamantly and publicly oppose same-sex marriage. Other Christianities support it conditionally; a very small minority support it unequivocally. A significant number of Christianities are still working out their positions on both homosexuality and same-sex marriage. Christian churches and their leaders speak as moral authorities and are frequently perceived as such, even by some of those who disagree with them. What are the ethics of American Christianities on same-sex marriage? How are these ethics employed, deployed, and disseminated in the public sphere? Which ethics are ultimately the most compelling?

This dissertation uses ethics as a hermeneutical tool or lens and the approach of practical ethics to create and analyze California’s Proposition 8 (2000-2015) as an ethical case study. Proposition 8 reversed legal same-sex marriage in California, hence the title “I do”; “No, you don’t.” The title also nods to the Christianities that served as the major opponents of same-sex marriage and proponents of Proposition 8. After compiling a case study of Prop 8, I identify and describe the various opponent and proponent positions on same-sex marriage, with a focus on the ethics of the Christianities who argued in the public sphere. I contextualize, compile, and critique the ethics of the Christianities as moral arguments. I conclude with a taxonomy of moral arguments on same-sex marriage in America, and an overview of the ethics for and against same-sex marriage.


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