Winning the Right to Marry: Historical Parallels


In this lesson, students explore marriage bans for same-sex couples within the context of earlier prohibitions, and use these historical parallels to determine the fairness of current restrictions. Students listen to the story of an individual who was personally affected by marriage restrictions and fought to change the law in his state. They then analyze existing state and federal laws concerning same-sex marriage, and consider whether or not these laws are in need of change.



  • Students will explore past injustices within the institution of marriage.
  • Students will identify marriage attributes that can be used in considering past and present challenges to marriage law.
  • Students will reflect on the personal testimony of an individual involved in the movement for marriage rights.
  • Students will increase their knowledge about existing state and federal marriage laws.
  • Students will consider the fairness or unfairness of current marriage laws and begin to develop a personal stance on the issue.


About This Lesson

Time: 75-90 mins. or 2 class periods
Grade Level: Grades 8 & up
Strategies and Skills: analyzing primary documents, analyzing oral histories, brainstorming, connecting past to present, cooperative group work, critical thinking, debate, forming opinions, historical understanding, large and small group discussion, reading skills, writing skills
Key Words and Phrases: attribute, civil marriage, civil union, constitutional/ unconstitutional, discrimination, DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act), domestic partnership, interracial, invalidate, LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender), mandate, plaintiff, refuge, sexual orientation, void


Lesson Preparation 

Handouts/Supporting Documents: Download all handouts

  • (Optional) To Be Equal: The Journey of David Wilson (one per student)
  • Winning the Freedom to Marry: Progress in the States (one per small group)
  • The Defense of Marriage Act (one per small group)

Other Materials: Unheard Voices interviews and background materials, chart paper, markers, masking tape, computer, speakers.

Advance Preparation

  • Reproduce handouts as directed above.
  • Prepare the statements in steps # 1 and 2.
  • Prepare to play interview (see step # 6).
  • Print out copies of your state’s marriage law (see step # 9).



Lesson Plan:  Winning The Right to Marry: Historical Parallels

Leave a Reply

captcha *