Pursuit of the Moral Good and the Church-State Conundrum in the United States: The Politics of Sexual Orientation

Andrew R. Murphy, Caitlin Kerr

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This article discusses the theoretical and historical foundations of the American approach to moral pluralism among its citizenry, which focused predominantly on religious matters but laid constitutional foundations that elucidate broader issues of diversity on a host of moral issues. It also discusses the questions of privacy and sexuality, and evaluates a string of cases culminating in Bowers v. Hardwick (1986) and Lawrence v. Texas (2003). The conflicting outcomes of these two cases demonstrate the uncertainty of the U.S. Court on moral diversity over the past two decades. In both Bowers and Lawrence, the Court faced criminal statutes representing moral views on proper sexual behavior. As Bowers and Lawrence involved forms of sexual behavior that are at the heart of the moral debate in America, a close inspection of these cases illuminates the broader questions of liberty and privacy which have become essential to American politics and culture in the twenty-first century. The article concludes with several reflections on the future trajectories of same-sex marriage and the implications of Lawrence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Oxford Handbook of Church and State in the United States
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Electronic)9780199892228
ISBN (Print)9780195326246
StatePublished - Jan 2 2011

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Arts and Humanities(all)


  • Historical foundations
  • Liberty
  • Moral pluralism
  • Privacy
  • Same-sex marriage
  • Sexual behavior
  • Sexuality
  • Theoretical foundations


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