The Legal History of Marriage Equality
Support for same-sex marriage is now so widespread that young people find it hard to believe that just thirty years ago, gay people lacked basic constitutional protections. This Master Class uses two Supreme Court opinions to tell the history of changing attitudes to lesbians and gay men in the United States. We will treat two foundational cases in depth: Bowers v. Hardwick (1986), which upheld sodomy laws criminalizing sex between men, and Lawrence v. Texas (2003), which overturned Bowers v. Hardwick 17 years later. Reading materials include three other landmark cases: Romer v. Evans (1996); U.S. v. Windsor (2013); and Obergefell v. Hodges (2015), as well as the texts of the laws these decisions voided, including the Colorado anti-gay referendum struck down by Romer v. Evans and and the Defense of Marriage Act ruled unconstitutional by U.S. v. Windsor.
Sharon Marcus is the Orlando Harriman Professor of English and Comparative Literature and the Dean of Humanities at Columbia University. She specializes in the literature of nineteenth-century England and France, with an emphasis on the novel; theater and performance; architecture and urbanism; and gender and sexuality. She is the author of Apartment Stories: City and Home in Nineteenth-Century Paris and London and Between Women: Friendship, Desire, and Marriage in Victorian England.