For Educators

Recreating Marriage: The Same-Sex Union Debate – Background


What are the visions typically associated with marriage? Happy couples composed of a man and a woman…well, at least, from a traditional perspective. These days, same-sex marriage has greatly altered that view, as well as created significant and substantive social, religious and legal debate.

In this lesson, students explore the same-sex debate through analysis, assessment and debate of key perspectives and arguments that frame the controversial issue. Resources include segments from RELIGION & ETHICS NEWSWEEKLY and relevant Web sites.

Grade Level:

Grades 9-12

This lesson is intended for high school grades, but can be adapted for middle school students.

Time Allotment:

Activities may take several classroom periods. Estimated timeframes for each activity are noted under learning activities. Culminating activities may extend over longer periods of time depending on level of student interest and commitment to the projects.

Subject Matter:

Social studies (civics); language arts; religion

Learning Objectives

Students will:

  • Define marriage
  • Explain, give examples of and assess key religious, legal and socio-economic pro and con arguments associated with the same-sex debate
  • Predict the future status of same-sex marriages in the United States
  • Formulate an informed pro or con same-sex marriage argument that integrates and reconstructs national debate perspectives


Behavioral Studies

Standard 1: Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning 4th Edition Standards & Benchmarks

Behavioral Studies

Standard 1: Understands that group and cultural differences contribute to human development, identity, and behavior

Level IV [Grade 9-12]

Benchmark 7: Understands that family, gender, ethnicity, nationality, institutional affiliations, socioeconomic status, and other group and cultural influences contribute to the shaping of a person’s identity

Standard 4: Understands conflict, cooperation and interdependence among individuals, groups and institutions


1. Understands that conflict between people or groups may arise from competition over ideas, resources, power, and/or status

2. Understands that social change, or the prospect of it, promotes conflict because social, economic, and political changes usually benefit some groups more than others (which is also true of the status quo)

3. Understands that conflicts are especially difficult to resolve in situations in which there are few choices and little room for compromise

6. Understands that inter-group conflict does not necessarily end when one segment of society gets a decision in its favor because the “losers” then may work even harder to reverse, modify or circumvent change

7. Understands that even when the majority of people in a society agree on a social decision, the minority who disagree must be protected from oppression, just as the majority may need protection against unfair retaliation from the minority

8. Understands how various institutions change over time and how they further both continuity and change in societies.

9. Understands how changes in social and political institutions both reflect and affect individuals’ career choices, values and significant actions.

10. Understands that the decision of one generation both provide and limit the range of possibilities open to the next generation


Standard 9: Understands the importance of Americans sharing and supporting certain values, beliefs, and principles of American constitutional democracy

Level IV [Grade 9-12]


2. Understands the interdependence among certain values and principles (e.g., individual liberty and diversity)

3. Understands the significance of fundamental values and principles for the individual and society

Standard 11: Understands the role of diversity in American life and the importance of shared values, political beliefs, and civic beliefs in an increasingly diverse American society

Level IV [Grade 9-12]


1. Knows how the racial, religious, socioeconomic, regional, ethnic, and linguistic diversity of American society has influenced American politics through time

2. Knows different viewpoints regarding the role and value of diversity in American life

3. Knows examples of conflicts stemming from diversity, and understands how some conflicts have been managed and why some of them have not yet been successfully resolved

4. Knows why constitutional values and principles must be adhered to when managing conflicts over diversity

Standard 13: Understands the character of American political and social conflict and factors that tend to prevent or lower its intensity

Level IV [Grade 9-12] Benchmarks:

1. Understands issues that involve conflicts among fundamental values and principles such as the conflict between liberty and authority

2. Knows why people may agree on values or principles in the abstract but disagree when they are applied to specific issues such as the right to life and capital punishment

Standard 14. Understands issues concerning the disparities between ideals and reality in American political and social life

Level IV [Grade 9-12]


2. Knows discrepancies between American ideals and the realities of American social and political life (e.g., the ideal of equal opportunity and the reality of unfair discrimination)

Standard 15: Understands how the United States Constitution grants and distributes power and responsibilities to national and state government and how it seeks to prevent the abuse of power

Level IV [Grade 9-12]


3. Understands ways in which federalism is designed to protect individual rights to life, liberty, and property and how it has at times made it possible for states to deny the rights of certain groups, (e.g. states’ rights and slavery, denial of suffrage to women and minority groups)

Standard 17: Understands issues concerning the relationship between state and local governments and the national government and issues pertaining to representation at all three levels of government

Level IV [Grade 9-12]


2. Understands that the two kinds of power most commonly associated with state governments are reserved powers, which are powers not delegated to the national government or prohibited to states by the United States Constitution (e.g., legislation regarding public safety, marriage, and divorce; education; the conduct of elections; chartering regional and local governments; licensing drivers, businesses, and professions) and concurrent powers, which are powers jointly held with the national government (e.g., legislating taxation, regulating trade and industry, borrowing money, maintaining courts, protecting the environment)

Language Arts

Standard 9: Uses viewing skills and strategies to understand and interpret visual media

Level IV [Grade 9-12]

Benchmark 1: Uses a range of strategies to interpret visual media

Benchmark 2: Uses a variety of criteria relevant to evaluate informational media

This lesson was prepared by: Michele Israel