Rights, Reflection, and Reciprocity: Implications of the Same-Sex Marriage Debate for Tolerance and the Political Process

Document Type

Conference Proceeding


Contentious battles over state-level Religious Freedom Restoration Acts suggest a fundamental refashioning of the "culture war" clashes in American politics. Conservatives - particularly religious conservatives - have come to champion a politics of rights, using "liberal weapons" (rights) to win battles or at least stave off loses. This raises important questions about the long-run effects of making rights claims. Does rights claiming lead to balkanization and reinforce group boundaries or is rights claiming an education in the democratic process that promotes tolerance? Drawing on evidence from an experimental design, we find that exposure to rights claims made by clergy regarding exemptions from participation in same-sex ceremonies acts as a prime to boost tolerance of selected least-liked groups, an effect particularly potent for evangelical Protestants. © Copyright 2016 Religion and Politics Section of the American Political Science Association.

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