Friday, January 29, 2010

Same-Sex Marriage deliberation

Marriage is one of our community’s most rewarding and cherished institutions.”
- Goodridge v. Dept. of Public Health (2003)

Students from California, Kentucky, New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia came together for a video conference to deliberate the question, “Should same-sex couples have the right to marry?” during The Exchange, which is the National Constitution Center’s national student program that enables young people discuss current constitutional and political issues with their peers.

The students looked at the controversies over judicial or legislative remedies to the question of same-sex marriage, the possibility that same-sex marriage could harm American society as well as the possible effects of legalized same-sex marriage on private institutions, like the Boy Scouts and the Catholic Church.

Students on both sides of the same-sex marriage debate were exposed to differing points of view in a respectful and thoughtful way that allowed them to understand the perspectives of others even if they did not agree on whether same-sex couples should be allowed to marry.

Constitutional Connections
The Full Faith and Credit Clause in Article IV, Section 1 of the Constitution has been cited by some advocates of same-sex marriage as proof that the Defense of Marriage act of 1996 (DOMA) is unconstitutional. Critics of this argument say the Full Faith and Credit Clause gives Congress the right to control the "effect" of the agreements that fall under it, thus Congress can define the manner and effect of the judgments.

The Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the 14th Amendment have also been cited by supporters of same-sex marriage as guaranteeing Americans a fundamental right to marry. Some opponents of same-sex marriage counter that the 14th Amendment does not grant homosexuals the right to marry because it only protects those belonging to a “suspect class,” which is a status that has not been granted to homosexuals by the courts.

In Your Classroom
In addition to a live nationwide webcast with high school students from around the country, The Exchange includes a free classroom poster, which contains a lesson designed to promote classroom deliberation. If you would like a classroom sized poster from this or a past Exchange, send an email to or go to The Exchange web site. You can also go to The Exchange web site and take our nationwide Web Poll .

On Thursday, March 18, The Exchange will focus on the issue of national service as students deliberate the question, “Should a year of national service be required for all Americans?” Teachers who would like their students to participate in The Exchange video conference or learn more about the program should contact Jason Allen at .

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