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‘Rhetorically self-sufficient arguments’ in parliamentary discourses of Lesbian and Gay Law Reform

Summers, M. (2004) ‘Rhetorically self-sufficient arguments’ in parliamentary discourses of Lesbian and Gay Law Reform. In: Psychology of Women Section Annual Conference 2004, 7-9 July 2004, University of Brighton, UK


Using a discourse analytic approach, this paper examines the use of liberal-egalitarian principles within parliamentary speeches supporting or opposing Western Australia’s Acts Amendment (Lesbian and Gay Law Reform) Bill 2001, which addressed a number of legal inequalities concerning such areas as discrimination, lesbian access to IVF and adoption procedures. The study was primarily concerned with the extent to which such principles are treated as beyond question, or ‘rhetorically self-sufficient’. Linguistic resources concerning ‘equality’, ‘human rights’, ‘democracy’, ‘the interests of the majority’ and ‘the interests of children’ were given a kind of beyond-question, self-sufficient status, but their use was able to be undermined in a number of ways, relating to members’ management of what the Bill was ‘about’, and the flexibility of these social constructs. It is argued that rather than pitting one set of resources against another, members on both sides of the debate face a rhetorical pressure to adopt and mobilise all of the same selfsufficient moral resources, due to the flexible, constructed, and non-hierarchical, yet often rhetorically self-sufficient nature of common sense liberal-egalitarian principles.

Publication Type: Conference Paper
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Psychology
Publisher: British Psychological Society
Copyright: British Psychological Society
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