Marriage for Same-Sex Couples: A Conversation

Posted on January 15th, 2010 by Katherine Franke

marriageThe start of the trial this week in Perry v. Schwarzenegger, the case challenging the constitutionality of California’s Proposition 8, makes the Law School Magazine’s feature article on the issue all the more relevant.  Read an excerpt from the article below:

With public opinion increasingly favoring the right of same-sex couples to marry, and more states legalizing marriage for gays and lesbians, the movement for marriage equality appears to be at a tipping point. Four legal scholars discuss the future of marriage equality in the United States and examine the larger issues that remain on the horizon.

2009 has been a landmark year for marriage equality advocates. In April, Iowa legalized marriage for same-sex couples. Vermont and New Hampshire soon followed suit, as did Maine—if only to have residents vote to repeal the right in November. The news did not stop there. In the same month, a narrow majority in Washington chose to grant same-sex couples the state-sanctioned benefi ts of marriage, but not the title. These developments, along with a host of individual triumphs and setbacks, sparked intense debates that echoed through the halls of Columbia Law School. Discussions were particularly pointed within the Center for Gender and Sexuality Law, which offers the only curriculum of its kind at any law school in the country. Taking note of the variety of well-reasoned arguments, Columbia Law School Magazine approached four professors of varying backgrounds with an idea: They would document their thoughts on marriage for same-sex couples in a series of back-and-forth emails—no moderator, no referee. The scholars could drive the free-flowing conversation in any direction and expand on any thoughts that they found particularly compelling. In addition to Professors Suzanne B. Goldberg and Katherine M. Franke, the directors of the Center for Gender and Sexuality Law, the Magazine invited constitutional law and public opinion expert Nathaniel Persily to join the conversation, as well as Professor Elizabeth F. Emens, a noted scholar on discrimination and marriage. Each approached the issue with a unique perspective shaped by their legal expertise and differing experiences. Together, they discussed the future of marriage for same-sex couples in America.

Katherine Franke: Some have argued that marriage rights for lesbian and gay couples is the preeminent civil rights issue of this era. A long shot even five years ago (and a productive wedge issue for the Republicans in the 2004 presidential election), we’ve seen the tide turn in the last couple years such that the injustice of the issue has become more apparent to a larger section of the American people. To be honest, I didn’t see it coming quite so quickly. Did any of you?

Nathaniel Persily: The rapid and radical shifts in attitudes toward same-sex marriage since 2003 may possibly be unprecedented among so-called “moral values” issues that deal with family, sexuality, or intimacy. Let me begin by discussing the state of American public opinion on same-sex marriage. If present trends continue—and that is not a big “if”—a majority of Americans within five years will support the right of gays and lesbians to marry.

Read the rest of the conversation in the Columbia Law School Magazine


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  2. Marriage for Same-Sex Couples: A Conversation

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