Queer/Religious Friendship in the Obama Era

33 Washington University Journal of Law & Policy 211 (2010)

63 Pages Posted: 18 Sep 2010 Last revised: 29 Apr 2018

See all articles by Jeffrey A. Redding

Jeffrey A. Redding

University of Melbourne - Law School

Date Written: September 16, 2010


In this Article, I challenge commonplace notions of queer political friendship by responding to (then-candidate) Barack Obama's plea "that if we‘re going to make significant progress on critical issues that we face...we‘ve got to be able to get beyond our comfort zones and just talk to people we don‘t like." Differentiating between an assimilative gay and lesbian politics, and a more imaginative queer politics, I argue that queers have been hurt by mainstream gay and lesbian political advocacy - the kind of advocacy, for example, that both led up to and followed Proposition 8 - and that, as a consequence, queers should actively contest and act to counter this gay and lesbian advocacy in political and legal arenas. In other words, I argue that, to the extent that there has been friendly cooperation with gay and lesbian politics by queers, queers should vigorously and skeptically reconsider this cooperation.

More importantly, in addition to suggesting an unorthodox queer "adversary" in this Article, I will simultaneously suggest an orthodox "ally," namely, the radically religious opponents of gay and lesbian same-sex marriage. Real opportunities to forge new kinds of political friendship between queers and religious people, as well as real possibilities of generating imaginative legal frameworks that are enhancing of queer agency,have been lost by queer cooperation with a gay and lesbian-led retreat into a strictly secular, religion-phobic sexuality politics. As I argue in this Article, queers never had to and should not continue to join in this retreat. What is needed instead is a more, à la Judith Butler, "antifoundationalist approach to coalition politics."

In this Article, I first discuss how contemporary gay and lesbian same-sex marriage advocacy has effectively de-friended queers by wielding a peculiar conception of "dignity" in a jurispathic and queer-phobic manner. I then demonstrate how a number of religious folk have acted in a more queer-friendly manner by arguing for different understandings and implementations of human dignity (and its conceptual cognates, e.g., minority rights, toleration, etc.), namely ones that are jurisgenerative and pluralistically oriented. Finally, I discuss two specific aspects of a larger agenda on which newly-friendly queers and radically religious folk might collaborate in the United States, which would include active resistance to the legal strategies and understandings deployed by attorneys Theodore Olson and David Boies in their ongoing Perry v. Schwarzenegger litigation challenging the U.S. constitutional bona fides of California‘s Proposition 8. With respect to this litigation, I suggest and develop an alternative queer/religious legal strategy, using arguments which are embedded in the City of San Francisco‘s motion to intervene in Perry v. Schwarzenegger.

Keywords: queer, gay, lesbian, religion, Christianity, Islam, friendship, coalition, Obama

Suggested Citation

Redding, Jeffrey A., Queer/Religious Friendship in the Obama Era (September 16, 2010). 33 Washington University Journal of Law & Policy 211 (2010), Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1677934

Jeffrey A. Redding (Contact Author)

University of Melbourne - Law School ( email )

University Square
185 Pelham Street, Carlton
Victoria, Victoria 3010

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