Religion and Sex: Marriage Equality and the Attempt to Regulate Intimacy in a Multifaith Society


  • Gary D. Bouma Monash University



religion and sex, religious diversity, same-sex marriage, sexual ethics, religion and marriage


The debate about same-sex marriage in Australia is used as a lens through which to examine the challenges to social policy debates produced by increases in religious diversity, on the one hand, and the re-entry of religious voices in the public sphere on the other. Moreover, it has now become necessary for non-religious so called secular voices, once considered to be the norm, to defend their positions. Australia’s provision of ‘civil celebrants’ to conduct marriage ceremonies since the mid-1970s has established a free market for weddings. This freedom enables us to see what people choose—clergy, or civil celebrants—as they get married. Recent changes to marriage both in terms of law and the ways people negotiate their marriage relationships have shifted the focus of marriage from an economic transaction centred on assuring paternity to the support of intimacy. In this context the debate about Marriage Equality demonstrates a serious disconnect between those who oppose same-sex marriage and the realities of negotiating intimacy in Australia at this time.

Author Biography

Gary D. Bouma, Monash University

Gary D Bouma AM is the UNESCO Chair in Intercultural and Interreligious Relations – Asia Pacific, Emeritus Professor of Sociology and Director of the Global Terrorism Research Centre at Monash University. He is also the Australian Node of the Religion and Diversity Project, University of Ottawa and President of the Australian Association for the Study of Religions. He was invested as a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for services to Sociology, to interreligious relations and to the Anglican Church of Australia.



How to Cite

Bouma, G. D. (2014). Religion and Sex: Marriage Equality and the Attempt to Regulate Intimacy in a Multifaith Society. Journal for the Academic Study of Religion, 27(1), 3–19.



AASR Presidential Address