Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Same-Sex Marriage: Legislative Vote vs. Court Decision

On Tuesday, April 7th Vermont, which in 2000 became the first state to adopt civil unions for same-sex couples, became the fourth state to legalize same-sex marriage. Vermont is the first state to allow same-sex marriage through legislative action instead of a court ruling. Massachusetts, which became the first state to allow same-sex couples to marry, Connecticut and Iowa have legalized same-sex marriage by court order. Proposition 8 in California, which banned same-sex marriage, was a response to a California State Supreme Court decision that allowed same-sex marriage.

The Supreme Court’s of Iowa, Connecticut and Massachusetts have all ruled that banning same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. Each of these cases were based the Equal Protection clause in each state’s constitution.

Teaching with the Constitution
Ask your students to read the Equal Protection clause of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and decide if state laws banning same-sex marriages are constitutional.

Have your students read Article III section 2 and decide if the U.S. Supreme Court has the power to nullify an act of Congress, like the Defense of Marriage Act, if the Court finds the law to be unconstitutional.

Then have your students read Article VI and the 10th Amendment to determine what role federalism plays in the debate over same-sex marriage.

You can also have your students look at our Town Hall Wall on same-sex marriage: A Matter of Matrimony , which promotes discussion and deliberation of the Pros and Cons of same-sex marriage.

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