The Fourteenth Amendment and Marriage Equality

Teacher: Chris Herr and Tristan Black-Ingersoll

General Description

Abstract:
The Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments slowed (but hardly eliminated) the pervasive racial discrimination that was a principal cause of the Civil War. The principle of equal protection is embodied in the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution and in general prohibits governments from passing laws that treat citizens differently without good reason. Racial discrimination has always been viewed under strict scrutiny by the Supreme Court, and other groups have successfully challenged federal and state laws as being indefensibly discriminatory. State laws have historically limited marriage to marriage between a man and a woman, yet over time more and more Americans began to challenge this conception of marriage and demanded marriage equality that allowed equal access to the benefits of marriage for same-sex couples. A series of legal challenges to state laws eventually resulted in the Supreme Court affirming the Constitution’s protection of marriage equality under the Fourteenth Amendment.

Essential Question:
  • Should marriage equality be protected by the Fourteenth Amendment?

Materials and Documents

Videos and Media

  • John Green teaches you about the early days of the Civil Rights movement. By way of providing context for this, John also talks a bit about wider America in the 1950s.

  • The Netherlands became the first country to legalize same-sex marriage in 2000, generating reactionary headlines around the world. A little over a decade later, marriage equality has spread to four continents, with new debates raging in places once considered unthinkable. Friday’s historic vote by the Supreme Court to legalize same-sex marriage adds the United States to the increasingly crowded map of countries with full marriage equality. Watch the video above to follow the incredible change as it has unfolded over the past 15 years.

     

  • Separate but equal was a legal doctrine in United States constitutional law, according to which racial segregation did not necessarily violate the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which guaranteed "equal protection" under the law to all people.

  • A white, puffy dress. Eternal love. A joint tax return. Marriage means something different to everyone and has changed over time and across cultures. Alex Gendler traces the history of getting hitched, providing insights on polygamy, same-sex unions and even marriage between the dead and the living.

     

  • The US Supreme Court struck down states' same-sex marriage bans on June 26, effectively bringing marriage equality to the entire US. Watch it sweep the United States over the last 11 years.

  • President Obama delivers remarks in the Rose Garden heralding the Supreme Court’s ruling that gay and lesbian couples have the right to marry in America.

Quote
Today, I was almost brought to tears (of joy) with NH Institute for Civics Education's Civics 603 program. It was just a wonderful day. To top it off, I just got this text message from a student who asked me to send him pictures: "Thank you so much for this opportunity. It was a lot of fun and an amazing experience." Thank you everyone!
- Dina Michael Chaitowitz
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