Teaching About Marriage Equality

Introduction

Marriage equality is “the state of having the same rights and responsibilities of marriage as others, regardless of one’s sexual orientation or gender identity” (Dictionary.com). Full marriage equality became a reality on June 26, 2015, in the United States after the Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges. In a 5-4 decision, the Court ruled that the 14th Amendment requires that all 50 states both license marriage for same-sex couples and recognize licences for same-sex marraiges that are issued out of state. Since then, almost 300,000 same-sex couples have married and become eligible for the same state and federal benefits tied to marriage. However, same-sex couples still face challenges in obtaining a marriage license in certain states and continue to be discriminated against. Teaching students about marriage equality is important because the legal right to marry whom one chooses is a fundamental human right!

Resources

There are many resources available online for teaching students about marriage equality. One great resource for educators who are teaching older students is the official Obergefell v. Hodges syllabus and opinion of the court. Educators who also want to teach about LGBTQ+ pride and history should check out U4SC’s Teaching about LGBTQ+ Pride/History (Month)!

Lesson Plans

  1. Obergefell v. Hodges (2015): This video from Academy 4SC reviews Obergefell v. Hodges. In the case, the Supreme Court held in a 5-4 decision that the 14th Amendment requires that states license marriage for same-sex couples as well as recognize licenses for same-sex marriages that are issued out of state. Teachers have access to resources like worksheets, activity ideas, discussion questions, and more included in the topic’s lesson plan.
  2. First Comes Love, Then Comes Marriage (Equality) – Welcoming Diverse Families in the Elementary Classroom: Social Studies and the Young Learner provides an article and accompanying lesson plan on marriage equality. The article helps teachers explore discussing marriage equality in the elementary classroom and selecting trade books on marriage equality, while the lesson plan will help students understand how Supreme Court decisions, specifically those that have affected marriage equality, influence their communities and lives.
  3. The Journey to Marriage Equality in the United States: Share My Lesson offers a lesson on the journey to marriage equality in the United States. There are two forms of this lesson, one for teachers who are engaging in distance learning and another for teachers who are teaching in person. In this lesson, students will explore the history of marriage equality by diving into the court cases and legislation related to the debate and identify how Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” represented the LGBTQ+ community’s experience and celebrated their mission.

Articles

  1. 4-Year-Olds Discuss Love and Marriage: Rethinking Schools provides an article on how 4-year-olds discuss love and marriage. In this article, A.J. Jennings begins by talking about how she has approached the topic of same-sex love and marriage with her young students. She goes on to discuss the significance of challenging binary thinking in early childhood education. Though she prefers not to plan when she addresses gender and sexuality in self-contained lessons, she does recommend the picture book And Tango Makes Three for initiating this conversation. Lastly, she touches upon how to respond to parents who think the topic is too “sensitive” for discussion.
  2. They Fought for Gay Marriage. A Decade Later, Advocates Reflect on the ‘Herculean Feat.’: NBC News has published an article in which activists reflect on the ‘Herculean Feat’ of legalizing same-sex marriage. The article discusses how they strategized for their campaign, garnered for Republican support, and then watched the Marriage Equality Act finally become a reality. Educators who want their students to understand how the legislation for marriage equality passed and the effort behind it should use this resource!
  3. 6 Years After Same-Sex Marriage, Now What?: Six years ago, same-sex marriage was legalized after a high-profile Supreme Court case, but the decision stopped short of what advocates truly wanted. Therefore, this article from Politico talks about where the movement for gay and lesbian rights is today. Despite the fact that Obergefell has allowed hundred of thousands of same-sex couples to get married in the United States, its effect has been quite limited.
  4. Supreme Court Ruling Makes Same-Sex Marriage a Right Nationwide: The New York Times published this article in June 2015 after the Supreme Court ruled that the Constitution guarantees a right to same-sex marriage. This article provides the details of the historic decision, including the opinions of the justices who either voted in favor or against same-sex marriage.

Informational Sites

  1. The Journey to Marriage Equality in the United States: The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), was at the forefront of the long fight for marriage equality in the U.S. and offers information on the journey. 
  2. Marriage Equality – Global Comparisons: The Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) introduces democracy and LGBTQ+ rights before comparing marriage equality across the globe.
  3. Why Marriage Equality Matters: The ACLU provides a quick guide for teachers and students on why marriage equality matters. The guide explains how people can advance the cause of equal rights and marriage, details ACLU’s work in the courts and community, and answers questions on the importance of marriage equality. 
  4. Marriage Equality USA: Marriage Equality USA is an organization dedicated to building equality for the LGBTQ community through marriage equality. The site offers an abundance of resources on marriage equality!
  5. A Brief History of LGBTQ Civil Rights in the United States: Georgetown Law provides a brief history of LGBTQ Civil Rights in the United States, including the Stonewall Riots, the National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights, Obergefell v. Hodges, a timeline of the legalization of same-sex marriage in the U.S., and more. 
  6. The State of Marriage Equality Worldwide: The Human Rights Watch (HRW) provides a brief article on the state of marriage equality worldwide.
  7. Obergefell v. Hodges | Summary, History, Ruling, & Facts: Britannica offers a brief overview of Obergefell v. Hodges, the legal case in which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Fourteenth Amendment requires states to recognize same-sex marriage.
  8. History.com – Gay Marriage: History.com provides information on gay marriage, including same-sex marriage bans, the defense of the Marriage Act, civil unions, domestic partnerships, United States v. Windsor, Obergefell v. Hodges, and full marriage equality attained.

Conclusion

Teaching about marriage equality may seem like a daunting task, but it is an important one. While teaching about this topic, it is necessary for educators to recognize that some of their students may come from diverse families. Therefore, it is especially important for educators to create a safe space for these students to share their opinions on marriage equality if they feel comfortable or just sit and listen to the rest of the class discuss!

Additional Resources

  1. Gay Marriage – Pros & Cons: ProCon.org has put together a list of pros and cons of the legalization of gay marriage. These pros and cons may help students better understand the differing opinions on gay marriage. Unfortunately, all people do not necessarily agree on the significance of the legalization of gay marriage, and it is important to be aware of their arguments despite any disagreement.

Newsletter

Newsletter

Facebook Group