Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Political Science


Thomas Halper


Alan DiGaetano

Committee Members

Alan DiGaetano

Charles Tien

Subject Categories

American Politics | Political Science


same sex marriage, abortion, morality, punctuated equilibrium theory, incrementalism, moral panic


My dissertation had two principal components. First was the development of an argument outlining the five critical differences between abortion and same-sex marriage policy, which highlight the current insufficiency of the existing morality politics framework. These differences were: the duration of the issue, whether it demonstrated an incrementalist of a punctuated equilibrium theory of policy change, the scope of conflict, the degree of institutional entrenchment within the two parties, and the social construction of stakeholders. I then advanced five hypotheses to explain why these differences between the two policy areas in both process and outcome existed, for the purpose of providing greater analytical clarity of my two cases and for developing a larger theory of morality policy outcomes. Abortion and same-sex marriage policy trajectories diverged due to variation in when the issues were nationalized, the prevalence of the targeted group/behavior, complexity of policy implementation, partisan strategy and whether the legal opportunity structure encourages repeat players. I argue that rather than propounding a general theory of morality policy that lumps all morality policies together, a more useful classification scheme would be to create a two-part typology of morality policy that distinguished between moral conflicts, of which abortion would be an example, and moral panics, of which same-sex marriage would be an example.