“In a long-sought victory for the gay rights movement, the Supreme Court ruled on Friday that the Constitution guarantees a right to same-sex marriage. Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote the majority opinion in the 5 to 4 decision. He was joined by the court’s four more liberal justices.” A. Liptak, New York Times
Excerpt: Gay Marriage Backers Win Supreme Court Victory By Adam Liptak NYT
“The decision, the culmination of decades of litigation and activism, came against the backdrop of fast-moving changes in public opinion, with polls indicating that most Americans now approve of same-sex marriage. Justice Kennedy said gay and lesbian couples had a fundamental right to marry.
No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family…In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were…As Justice Kennedy finished announcing his opinion, several attendees seated in the bar section of the court’s gallery wiped away tears, while others grinned.
Justice John Paul Stevens, who retired in 2010, was on hand for the decision and many of the justices’ clerks took seats in the chamber, which was nearly full as the ruling was announced.
The Obama administration, which had gradually come to embrace the cause of same-sex marriage, was unequivocal in urging the justices to rule for the plaintiffs.
Gay and lesbian people are equal, Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr. said. They deserve equal protection of the laws, and they deserve it now.”
Level: Intermediate – Advanced
Language Skills: Reading, writing, and speaking. Vocabulary and grammar activities are included.
Time: Approximately 2 hours.
I. Pre-Reading Activities
Predictions: Analyzing headings and photos
Directions: Have students examine the titles of the post and of the actual article. After they examine the photos, ask students to create a list of words and ideas that they think might be related to this article.
Directions: Students are to infer the meanings of the words in bold taken from the article. They may use a dictionary, thesaurus, and Word Chart for assistance.
- The decision took decades of litigation.
- Polls indicate that most Americans approve of same-sex marriage.
- Justice Kennedy said gay and lesbian couples had a fundamental right to marry.
- Gay men and women do not disrespect the idea of marriage.
- The justice’s opinion is couched in a style that is pretentious.
- Celebrate the opportunity for a new expression of commitment.
- The Supreme Court had moved cautiously.
- They methodically made careful judicial decisions.
- The court did not agree to resolve the issue until January.
- The Obama administration come to embrace the cause of same-sex marriage.
Reading Comprehension: Fill-ins
Directions: Place students in groups and after they have read the entire article, have them complete the following paragraphs taken from the article. They can use the words and terms from the list provided, or provide their own terms. They are to find the meanings of any new vocabulary.
The court did not ___to ___the issue for the rest of the ___until January, in cases filed by ___and lesbian couples in Kentucky, Michigan, ___and Tennessee. The court heard extended arguments in April, and the ___seemed sharply ___over what the ___has to say about same-sex marriage. ___for the ___said their clients had a ___right to marry and to equal protection, adding that the bans they ___demeaned their dignity, imposed countless practical difficulties and___particular harm on their children.
Ohio, agree, challenged, Lawyers, justices, Constitution, divided ,
gay, resolve, nation, plaintiffs, inflicted, challenged, fundamental.
Grammar Focus: Using Adjectives to describe pictures
Directions: Have students choose a picture from this lesson and write a descriptive paragraph using adjectives.
For a review of Adjectives visit ESL Voices Grammar
III. Post Reading Tasks
Directions: Have students use the WH-question format to discuss or to write the main points from the article.
Who or What is the article about?
Where does the action/event take place?
When does the action/event take place?
Why did the action/event occur?
How did the action/event occur?
Directions: Place students in groups and have them answer the following questions. Afterwards, have the groups share their thoughts as a class. To reinforce the ideas, students can write an essay on one of the following discussion topics.
1. The following two statements were taken from the article. Rephrase each statement in your own words, then discuss the meaning with the members of your group.
“No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family…In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were.”
“It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage, Justice Kennedy said of the couples challenging state bans on same-sex marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.”
2. What are your thoughts about the ruling on same-sex marriage?
1-Minute Free Writing Exercise
Directions: Allow students 1 minute to write down one new idea they’ve learned from the reading. Ask them to write down one thing they did not understand in the reading. Review the responses as a class. Note: For the lower levels allow more time for this writing activity.