NewsHour Extra Feature Stories
NewsHour Extra features stories can help students identify and interpret
key issues in current events. This activity anticipates one class period,
but the follow-up essay might be assigned as homework, or in another period.
Warm Up: Use
initiating questions to introduce the topic and find out how much your
Have students read NewsHour Extra's feature story and answer the questions
on the reading comprehension handout.
Use discussion questions to encourage students to think about how the
issues outlined in the story affect their lives and express and debate
can write an 500-word editorial on the topic expressing their views and
send it to NewsHour Extra [email@example.com]
for possible publication.
Students are graded on their answers to reading comprehension questions
and/or their editorial.
Story: The Great
Gay Marriage Debate, 05/17/04
1. Is it legal for
gay couples to get married in the United States?
2. What major legal step did the state of Massachusetts take on May 17?
3. Why are some people angry about what is happening in Massachusetts?
Questions: (click here for printout)
1. What is part of
the reason gay couples want the same right as heterosexual couples to
They want to
be legally recognized on tax and insurance forms, in wills, adoption
proceedings, in their places of worship and in their communities.
2. What has President
Bush suggested as a way to deal with the gay marriage issue?
The furious state
debates have drawn the federal government into the debate. President
George W. Bush is urging Congress to pass an amendment to the Constitution
that would ban gay marriages.
If such an amendment
does pass it would be only the 28th time the Constitution has been altered
since its ratification in 1788.
3. What are the laws
regarding gay marriage in some of the states?
As of mid-May,
courts in five relatively liberal states -- California, New Jersey,
New York, Oregon and Washington -- are being asked to rule on same-sex
marriages already performed there by officials and clergy.
In five relatively
conservative states -- Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, Oklahoma and
Utah -- voters will decide this fall about changing their state constitutions
to outlaw gay marriage.
Four other states -- Alaska, Hawaii, Nebraska and Nevada -- already
have constitutional amendments that ban same-sex marriage.
4. What would need
to happen in order for an amendment banning gay marriage to pass?
national polls indicate a majority of Americans oppose same-sex marriages,
any amendment to ban gay unions would need to be approved by two-thirds
of both the House and Senate, where Republicans have only slim majorities.
Then, three-fourths (38) of the 50 states have to ratify it. Of the
10,000 amendments that have been proposed, only 27 have made it through
5. Which state was
the first to allow "civil unions" between gay couples?
The most recent
struggle over same-sex marriages first bubbled up in Vermont. In 2000,
former governor and Democratic presidential candidate, Howard Dean,
signed a law creating "civil unions" between same-sex partners,
making Vermont the first state to legally recognize gay unions, although
it stopped short of endorsing legal marriages.
6. Is the Supreme
Court expected to rule on gay marriage?
But it looks
more likely that the U.S. Supreme Court will rule before that happens.
be a split of authority -- one state court will say it's valid, another
will say it isn't," said Duke University law professor William
Reppy. "Then the U.S. Supreme Court would have their hand forced
and hear the case. They don't let splits of authority run rampant around
the country for very long."
(more research might be needed):
1. What is your opinion of an amendment banning gay marriage? Do you think
the issue should be left up to the states to decide or should the federal
government get involved? Considering there have been only 27 amendments
to the Constitution, does the issue of gay marriage justify a 28th? Explain.
2. Research what it means to be legally married in the United States?
What rights do married couples have that other couples don't? Compare
the laws for married couples in the U.S. to the laws in another country.
What did you find? Are they similar or very different?
Write a 500-800 word
essay on any of these topics providing clear examples. Send your completed
editorial to NewsHour Extra [firstname.lastname@example.org].
Exceptional essays might be published on our Web site.