"Marriage is sacred to those who live by their religions and offers unique fulfillment to those who find meaning in the secular realm. Its dynamic allows two people to find a life that could not be found alone, for a marriage becomes greater than just the two persons. Rising from the most basic human needs, marriage is essential to our most profound hopes and aspirations." 

Justice Kennedy, speaking for the majority

This case explores the legal concepts of equal protection and federalism.

Federalism divides power between state government and the national government. Marriage is an area that has historically been left to the states resulting in a variety of state marriage laws developed over the 19th and 20th centuries. While the Supreme Court generally did not hear cases arising from disputes regarding marriage law, they did strike down laws that prohibited interracial marriage as unconstitutional in 1967 (Loving v. Virginia). Starting in the 1970s, a handful of states defined marriage as between one man and one woman. In the late 20th century, LGBTQ rights advocates began to challenge these laws and push for marriage equality.



This section is for students. Use the links below to download classroom-ready .PDFs of case resources and activities. 


About the Case

Full Case Summaries

A thorough summary of case facts, issues, relevant constitutional provisions/statutes/precedents, arguments for each side, decision, and case impact.

Case Background and Vocabulary

Important background information and related vocabulary terms.

Visuals

Decision

Learning Activities

The Case

After the Case

This section is for teachers.

Use the links below to access:

  • student versions of the activities in .PDF and Word formats
  • how to differentiate and adapt the materials
  • how to scaffold the activities
  • how to extend the activities
  • technology suggestions
  • answers to select activities  

About the Case


Learning Activities

The Case

After the Case


Teacher Resources

Teaching Strategies Used

Landmark Cases Glossary

The LandmarkCases.org glossary compiles all of the important vocab terms from case materials. It is provided as a view-only Google Sheet.

Glossary

Planning Time and Activities

If you have one day . . .

  • Read the background summary (•••, ••, •) and answer the questions.
  • Complete the Classifying Arguments Activity. Discuss which arguments the students find most convincing.
  • For homework, have students read the Key Excerpts from the Opinion and answer the questions. Follow-up the next day by reviewing the questions with students.

If you have two days . . .

  • Complete the activities for the first day (excluding homework)
  • Complete The 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause Activity
  • Complete the activities for the first day (excluding the homework).
  • For homework, have students read the Key Excerpts from the Opinion and answer the questions. Follow-up the next day by reviewing the questions with students.

If you have three days . . .

  • Complete the activities for the first and second days (excluding homework)
  • Complete the Applying Precedents Activity
  • Complete the Unmarked Opinions Activity

If you have four days . . .

  • Complete the activities for the first, second, and third days.
  • have students read the Key Excerpts from the Opinion and answer the questions.
  • Complete the Political cartoon analysis
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