Date of Completion

Spring 5-1-2018

Thesis Advisor(s)

Kimberly Bergendahl

Honors Major

Political Science


Obergefell v. Hodges (2015) epitomized the conflict between the Christian Right and the gay rights movement in the Supreme Court. By acknowledging gay marriage as a fundamental right, the Supreme Court moved away from the traditional definition of marriage and the associated religious liberties. This thesis explores the extent to which the conflict between the Christian Right and the gay rights movement reflects a larger conflict over claims made to the First and Fourteenth Amendments as they relate to religious liberties and equal protection claims, respectively. To contextualize the conflict between religious freedom and equal protection in the Supreme Court, I analyzed four cases, beginning with the first favorable case for the gay rights movement: Romer v. Evans (1996), Lawrence v. Texas (2003), Obergefell v. Hodges (2015), and Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado (2018). Using amicus curiae briefs and media coverage, I analyzed the Christian Right as its arguments transform or remain static throughout the period, and then I developed three expectations to assess the likely outcome of Masterpiece Cakeshop. Ultimately, I find that the Christian Right repeats arguments from previous cases to prevent further limitation on religious freedom and to introduce new reasoning as case issues evolve, and I find that the Court’s response to these arguments indicates an unfavorable outcome for the Christian Right in Masterpiece Cakeshop.