The power of belief

religious freedom in Australian parliamentary debates on same-sex marriage

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


More than merely a theme of the Australian parliamentary debates on the bill to legalise same-sex marriage, ‘religious freedom’ appeared in the bill’s very title. This paper explores why and how this happened using a corpus-assisted analysis of the 663 parliamentary speeches made during the marriage legislation debates from 2004 to 2017. The analysis demonstrates that by 2017, the idea that marriage equality was a profound threat to religious freedom was well entrenched in the parliamentary discourse. The study finds that the potential offence of religious sensibilities came to be regarded by politicians as more significant than ongoing discrimination, thereby granting tremendous social power to religious institutions to practise discrimination in the face of changing values in society.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-19
Number of pages19
JournalAustralian Journal of Political Science
Issue number1
Early online date13 Jan 2020
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • religion
  • Australian politics
  • sexuality
  • parliamentary speeches
  • text analysis

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