Procedures For Teachers

PrepPreparing for the lesson
StepsConducting the lesson
ExtensionAdditional Activities


Media Components

Computer Resources:

  • Modem: 56.6 Kbps or faster.
  • Browser: Netscape Navigator 4.0 or above or Internet Explorer 4.0 or above.
  • Personal computer (Pentium II 350 MHz or Celeron 600 MHz) running WindowsÆ 95 or higher and at least 32 MB of RAM.Macintosh computer: System 8.1 or above and at least 32 MB of RAM.
  • Adobe Acrobat Reader 4.0 or higher. Download the free Adobe Acrobat reader here:

Bookmarked sites:

Preview all of the sites and videos before presenting them to your class. Bookmark all of the Web sites used in the lesson on each computer in your classroom; create a word-processing document with all of the Web sites listed as hyperlinks and email to each student (or type out the URLs and print); or upload all links to an online book marking utility, such as, so that students can access the information on these sites. Make sure that your computer has necessary media players, like RealPlayer, to show streaming clips (if applicable). RELIGION & ETHICS NEWSWEEKLY Web sites:

Black Churches and Gay Marriage Within the African-American community, the national debate over gay marriage is pitting two deeply held values against each other

California’s Proposition 22 In 2000, California voters not only had to choose between presidential candidates but also to vote on Proposition 22, the highly controversial Defense of Marriage Act.

Episcopal [Church] Rift The General Convention of the Episcopal Church met in 2003 in Minneapolis to decide two very polarizing issues: whether to confirm the election of an openly gay bishop — V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire — and approve blessing ceremonies for same-sex couples

Gay Marriage and Homosexuality A controversial 2003 ruling by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court declaring that gay couples have the right to marry under the state constitution placed the issue of gay marriage back in the headlines.

Marriage Protection Amendment In June 2006, the U.S. Senate again debated – and rejected – a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage.

Same Sex Marriage recent years, the United States has grown more accepting of homosexuality, both in public policy and in pop culture. But when it comes to the question of marriage, the nation remains sharply divided. A 2003 Washington Post poll found that half of Americans favor a law defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman

The Spirit and the Flesh: Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly Viewer’s Guide 2004 Journalist Jeff Sheler’s essay surveys religious views on human sexuality and how religions wrestle with sexual issues. Includes discussion questions and additional readings and resources.

Trembling before G-d This excerpt from an acclaimed documentary tells the personal stories of Hasidic and Orthodox Jews in Israel, the U.S. and Great Britain who are gay or lesbian and who face a profound dilemma – how to reconcile their passionate love of Judaism and the Divine with biblical prohibitions that forbid homosexuality.

United Methodists on Same-Sex Unions 2000, nearly 1,000 United Methodist delegates gathered in Cleveland for their church’s quadrennial general conference, where the issue of homosexuality and same-sex unions was at the heart of debate and divisions.

What is Marriage? escalating controversy over same-sex unions has caused many Americans to reexamine the definition of marriage. What are the religious and moral values underlying the institution of marriage? Do homosexual unions have something in common with the union of a man and a woman?

Other sites: : Poll: No Same-Sex Marriage, No Amendment

The Heritage Foundation: “A Defining Moment: Marriage, the Courts, and the Constitution” by Matthew Spalding, May 17, 2004

Alliance for Marriage

PBS: The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer: The Battle Over Same-Sex Marriage, June 5, 2006

BBC – Religion & Ethics – Same-sex marriage

NPR: Calif. Judge Rejects Ban on Same-Sex Marriage (plus other stories on the debate) by Richard Gonzales, March 15, 2005

The Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies in Religion and Ministry: The Marriage Project

Institute for American Values: Center for Marriage and Families

Wikipedia: Defense of Marriage Act

Federal Marriage Amendment – H.J. Res 56: Defines marriage as union of man and woman only

Citizen Link: Focus on Social Issues: Same-Sex Unions and Parenting

Freedom to Marry

PBS: NewsHour with Jim Lehrer: Gay Marriage, February 13, 2004

PBS: Flashpoints USA: God and Country: Gay Marriage, January 27, 2004

Human Rights Campaign: Marriage

Institute for Marriage and Public Policy

PBS: NewsHour with Jim Lehrer: The Legal Debate Over Same-Sex Marriage

National Conference of State Legislatures: Same Sex Marriage Timeline

Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life: Gay Marriage

Religious Same-Sex Marriages (SSM) & Civil Union: All sides to the issue

The Boston Globe: The Same Sex Marriage Debate: Wedding Day (comprehensive exploration of the debate with polls, feature stories, pro/con arguments)

Institute for Marriage and Public Policy: “Same-Sex Marriage: What Does the Next Generation Think?” by Maggie Gallagher and Joshua Baker, November 23, 2004 Tracks state legislative activity on gay marriage and more.

PBS: Think Tank with Ben Wattenberg: Gay Marriage, 2003

Christianity Today: Thirteen Bad Arguments for Same-Sex Marriage, September 2004


Teachers will need the following supplies:

  • Computer, projector and Power Point program or chart paper and markers/chalkboard and chalk

Students will need the following supplies:

  • Double entry journal organizer OR Notebook that can be used for double entry journaling (using organizer as a template to set up notebook pages)

Background: For this lesson, it would be helpful for students to have a solid grasp of the Bill of Rights (First Amendment, separation of church and state) and constitutional amendments, and the role of federal and state governments with regard to creating and amending legislation. Students might also benefit from a basic overview of the same-sex debate: Wikipedia: Same Sex Marriage


Learning Activities:

Introductory Activity (2 classroom periods)

1. Write MARRIAGE on the chalkboard or chart paper. Have students take a few minutes to jot down associations with the word. Invite students to share their thoughts; classify similar concepts. (Consider a schematic web for this activity.)

2. Have students discuss common depictions of marriage. How is marriage typically portrayed? What expectations and ideas do these depictions generate about marriage? For example, what religious and legal elements are tied to marriage?

3. Drawing on concepts and feedback from the first two exercises, ask students to define marriage.

4. Probe with students whether these definitions of marriage-or traditional views and expectations associated with marriage-can be changed. Is marriage a civil and social institution? A religious institution? Both? Is it possible that this institution, grounded in tradition and legal/religious/social foundations, can be altered, take on a different shape in modern times? Is marriage a human rights issue? Does everyone have an equal right to marry? Students are likely to bring up same-sex marriage.

Students might review history on marriage to note how the institution has evolved. For example, they can log on to:

Activity 1: (2 classroom periods)

1. Briefly introduce and describe the same-sex marriage issue, building on student comments and views shared in the first three exercises. Tell students they will be discussing the topic and, given its sensitive nature, should be respectful of each other’s points of views and express thoughts in a fashion mindful of different perspectives. (Log on to Tips for Teaching Cont
roversial Issues to guide instruction on this topic.)

2. Have students read the transcript or view the tape of the R&E Weekly News Feature “What is Marriage?” and read the BBC’s “What is Marriage?” Ask students what they consider to be the key perspectives regarding same-sex marriages.

Discussion questions include:

  • What are some of the key arguments associated with the same-sex debate?
  • What political, religious, and socio-economic questions and dilemmas do these arguments raise? What does the separation of church and state have to do with debates about marriage?
  • What is the possibility of same-sex marriages becoming formally accepted? Is there room for compromise? Explain.

Then, have students discuss how their views of marriage coincide with the views expressed in these pieces.

Activity 2: (4-6 classroom periods)

1. Create mini-learning centers, each representing one of the following (you can add other categories):

  • Legal (federal vs. state government, constitutional laws, marriage amendments, state allowances of and bans of same-sex marriage, etc.)
  • Social (relationship to family values, social mores and standards, etc.)
  • Economic (health and other benefits)
  • Religious (what religions say about same-sex marriage, texts, interpretation of texts, role of religion in marriage)
  • Emotional (right to happiness, etc.)

At each learning center, provide articles and related materials that represent the categories and which offer pro and con perspectives. Begin by referring to the R&E Weekly segments and additional resources noted below. Be sure to consult the links and resources provided on the R & E Web site at the end of each R&E segment transcript.

2. Divide students into groups representing the categories above. Distribute several pages of the Double Entry Journal organizer or notebooks in which students can create double journal entries. Explain to students that the journal allows them to reflect on items they read – ask questions, make an idea concrete, etc. The journal will eventually enable them to formulate informed pro or con arguments on same-sex marriages.

3. Have each group conduct research on its category, making sure to gather relevant background, evidence and conflicting points of view on same-sex marriage and to formulate their stances into convincing arguments.

4. Ask students to attempt to construct equally strong arguments for and against same-sex marriage. They may opt to debate the topic, in which case students should assume either a pro or con stance (where possible, students should assume positions that differ from their personal perspective on same-sex marriage.

5. As a class, students can discuss the most prominent and most challenging pro and con arguments and predict, based on these stances, the future of same-sex marriage in the United States.

Culminating activity:

(Time allotted depends on level of student interest and engagement in any proposed activity)

OPTION 1: Order students into more formal debate teams to debate same-sex marriage. They can assume actual or fictitious roles of key players in the national debate, including public officials, lawyers, clergy, same-sex partners, family advocates, social scientists, etc.

OPTION 2: Invite students to write a scholarly essay or a formal editorial on the state of same-sex marriage, perhaps for actual submission to a journal or local newspaper, being sure to support arguments with relevant citations, sacred texts, laws, etc. Students might visit editors of a local paper (or invite them to their class) that has editorialized on the subject to discuss how the editorial was written and what position the paper endorses.

Extension Activities

Students can:

  • Research and examine same-sex marriage laws in other countries
  • Examine and compare same-sex marriage legislation across states noting challenges, successes, supporters, etc.
  • Compare the same-sex marriage debate to, and contrast it with, other major legislative or judicial events that have raised religious, moral and political controversies, such as Roe v. Wade and State v. John Scopes (“The Monkey Trial”).