The Constitutionality of Marriage Equality - Essay Prowess

The Constitutionality of Marriage Equality

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GOVT 2305

     Students must complete one major written assignment during the semester, an informative essay. The essay must be 3-4 pages in length, double-spaced, following MLA format. An essay of 3-4 pages should be at least 750-1000 words. Make sure that you include the word count with your essay.  Failure to include the word count will result in a rejection of your essay along with a penalty. The essay should consist of an introduction, body, and conclusion. A thesis statement is required in the introduction of the essay. The essay must also include an outline, and a works cited page, which are in addition to the three pages of text. Also, make sure to use parenthetical references when crediting outside sources. Students must have at least five credible sources listed on the citation page. Be sure to present the latest research on the topic.

     The objective of writing an informative essay is to inform or educate the reader on a particular topic, imparting knowledge in a logical, systematic manner. While writing an informative essay you should assume the reader does not have a basic knowledge of the topic. Do not inject yourself into the paper, it is not about providing your view or opinion of the topic.

     The topic for the informative essay is “The Constitutionality of Marriage Equality.” Briefly trace the evolution of the constitutionality of same-sex marriage as a fundamental right in the United States. Your essay should include a review of state ballot initiatives and federal and state laws pertaining to marriage equality. Also, examine relevant state and federal law suits and court decisions as well as the constitutional basis for the rulings.

Answer:

Title: The Constitutionality of Marriage Equality

Thesis: The successful push to attain marriage equality in all States was largely due to strategic legal campaigns and legislative advocacy across the country, as well as, social movements that inspired allies and LGBT Americans to communicate their stories and change the minds of millions.

1. Introduction

2. Background

3. House for the Defence of Marriage Act (DOMA)

4. Adopting new strategy

5. Supreme Court rulings

6. Conclusion

The Constitutionality of Marriage Equality

Marriage is a fundamental part of social growth. All over the United States, region, social class, race and religion, people get married. For most people, marriage is a serious matter. It is central to the pursuit of happiness, and something individuals aspire to achieve. To be informed that one cannot get married essentially means the exclusion from one of the most important rituals of the American way of life. Marriage equality has been one of the affirmative battles fought by gays and lesbians over the past 50 years. Once viewed as an improbability and an idea that would never be nationally embraced, it vaulted to an improbable victory in June 2015 when the supreme court held that same-sex couples had the right to the civil union under the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States constitution (Haddad 1489). The successful push to attain marriage equality in all States was largely due to strategic legal campaigns and legislative advocacy across the country, as well as, social movements that inspired allies and LGBT Americans to communicate their stories and change the minds of millions.

The first major stumbling for winning marriage equality for the lesbians, gay, bisexual and transgender (LBGT) under the law was to try and get the sodomy laws repealed. The laws prohibited private consensual engagements at the very heart of gay identity. A partial victory was achieved in the 70s and 80s as most states eradicated sodomy laws through legislative action and court pronouncements. However, an attempt to bring a national resolution on this matter failed miserably when the Supreme Court in 1986 Bower v. Hardwick ruling rejected the challenge on Georgia’s sodomy laws (Eskridge Jr. 275). It was not until 2003 that total victory was achieved when the Supreme Court repudiated Bowers in Lawrence v, Texas. At the time, 14 States still had the sodomy laws still in effect (Hunter 1662). The LGBT activist continued to pursue other important objectives such as; protection against violence, culture change, discrimination in the military and bullying in schools. The earliest victories following the formation of the gay right movement in 1969 were from the counties and municipalities that were among the first to enact anti-discrimination measures. One of the most visible of these measures originated from Dade County, Florida, which passed an anti-discrimination ordinance in 1977 (Klarman 127). However, for every marginal victory, the LGBT advocates encountered severe pushback, and the Dade County measures were eventually overturned in a ballot initiative campaign.

Eventually, the LGBT rights opponents often backed by religious conservatives became more offensive in their approach like advancing ballot measures that blocked protection for the LGBT community, forcing them to engage in expensive defensive efforts. The LGBT defensive efforts were not always in vain, and one victory, in particular, marked the turning point in the Court’s gay right jurisprudence, which eventually paved the way for marriage equality victory two decades later. It all happened in Colorado in 1992 where a majority of voters approved Amendment 2 essentially banning the state and local governments from prohibiting discrimination based on sexual preference, practices or relationship (Waddock et al. 1667). A case challenging this amendment arrived at the Supreme Court in 1996 Romer v. Evans, where the six judge bench ruled in favour of the plaintiff and found Amendment 2 to be a violation of the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause (Eskridge Jr. 111). It was a landmark ruling since it was the first time the court ruled that any form of discrimination against gay individuals was a violation of their constitutionally protected rights.

Following this ruling in Colorado and a similar one in Hawaii politicians in Washington signalled their disapproval and in 1996 overwhelmingly voted both in Congress and the House for the Defence of Marriage Act (DOMA) (Waddock 1667). The law had two contentious provisions; section 2 stated that States could withhold recognition of gay marriages from other states, scrapping the long-held notion that lawful marriages should be recognized in all states. Section 3 of the DOMA defined marriage in federal law as a union between a man and a woman effectively banning federal recognition of same-sex marriage even if the marriage is legal in a State. While the then President Clinton termed the measures as “unnecessary and discriminatory” he still went ahead to Assent the DOMA into law (Gates, Gary, and Taylor 2). Following a series of losses in the courts and the enactment of DOMA, the marriage equality advocates saw the need to change tactics in order to win in the court of law and also in the court of public opinion. As such, a national organization known as Freedom to Marry was founded to educate the public and build coalitions as well as cajoling LGBT advocacy organizations that were not actively involved in the struggle.

The new strategy was to focus on the more progressive New England States. The first battleground was in Vermont where in the case of Baker V. State the court ruled that the State’s constitution allowed same-sex couples to benefits, protection and security that are provided to opposite-sex couples (Waddock et al. 1667). Vermont would later refer to same-sex couples as civil unions, and they enjoyed all the benefit enjoyed by opposite-sex couples, but federal protection was still lacking. In 2003 Massachusetts went a step further when its highest court pronounced itself that it is discriminatory to exclude gay people from civil marriage. In her ruling justice, Margret Marshall highlighted that the Massachusetts constitution does not envisage the creation of second class citizens. By 2004 same-sex weddings started being conducted in the State. Courts would then rule in favour of Marriage equality in Connecticut and California. In 2011, New York governor signed the marriage equity bill into law following a concerted campaign to end discrimination in Marriage. More national leaders joined in the call for marriage equity including Obama who won the 2012 election, which also saw pro-equity side sweep four contested ballot measures in Minnesota, Maine, Washington and Maryland. With the winds in their sail additional governors of Delaware, Hawaii, and Minnesota assented to marriage equality legislation. 

Two of the greatest victories in the fight for marriage equality come I the U.S Supreme Court ruling in 2013 and 2015. In the 2013 case of the United States v. Windsor, the judges ruled in pro-marriage equality in a narrow 5-4. Justice Anthony Kennedy held that the DOMA’s primary effect divide the State’s sanctioned marriages and create inequity (Gates, Gary, and Taylor 21). In 2015, in another 5-4 decision, U.S Supreme Court held that the 14 Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects against any form of discrimination and that all States must allow same-sex marriage and recognizes same-sex marriage granted out of the state.  

In conclusion, the future of marriage, in many ways, looks a lot like its past. Unions between people will continue, have children and families and in some occasion, divorce. What the constitution said and affirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court is that whatever changes are done in this area should be based on the principle of equality. No group should be excluded from civil benefits like the right to marry whoever you want without compelling public concerns. The idea of marriage equality in the sense of same-sex couple is a big change similar to the inclusion of African Americans and women to the voting public. As such, these changes should be viewed as a realization of the promises guaranteed within the constitution.

Works Cited

Haddad, Jasmine J. “The evolution of marriage: The role of dignity jurisprudence and marriage equality.” BUL Rev. 96 (2016): 1489.

Eskridge Jr, William N. “Backlash politics: How constitutional litigation has advanced marriage equality in the United States.” BUL rev. 93 (2013): 275.

Hunter, Nan D. “Varieties of constitutional experience: democracy and the marriage equality campaign.” UCLA L. Rev. 64 (2017): 1662.

Klarman, Michael J. “Windsor and Brown: marriage equality and racial equality.” Harv. L. Rev. 127 (2013): 127.

Eskridge Jr, William N. “The Marriage Equality Cases and Constitutional Theory.” Cato Sup. Ct. Rev. (2014): 111.

Waddock, Sandra, Steve Waddell, and Paul S. Gray. “The transformational change challenge of Memes: The case of marriage equality in the United States.” Business & Society 59.8 (2020): 1667-1697.

Gates, Gary, and Taylor NT Brown. “Marriage and same-sex couples after Obergefell.” (2015).

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