Current Events and the Constitution: Supreme Court Summer Wrap-up

Many of us spent the summer months enjoying the warm weather and relaxing by a pool, but for the nine justices of the Supreme Court the summer of 2013 will go down as being one of the busiest in recent memory. A lot of major cases with far-reaching implications were decided this June. In this eLesson, we will focus on the Supreme Court cases that pertained to voting rights and gay marriage. Catch up on these hot button constitutional topics in our Supreme Court Wrap-up.


Student Handout (PDF)

Resources:

The Supreme Court’s decision on Arizona won’t put an end to voting wars – Washington Post
Federal Court Speaks but Couples still face State legal patchwork – NY Times
Same Sex-Marriage Cases Deep Dive – Oyez Project
Same-Sex Married Couples to Get Federal Tax Recognition Regardless Of State – Huffington Post

Landmark Supreme Court Cases:

Questions to Consider

  1. What constitutional issues are associated with gay marriage and voting rights?
  2. How is the principle of federalism important in these cases? What tension exists between the idea of federalism and the protection of individual rights?
  3. State officials declined to defend Hollingsworth v. Perry (2013), which was the reason the Supreme Court declined to overturn the lower court’s rulings. Do you think the state should have a responsibility to defend its laws in court?
  4. In Shelby County v. Holder (2013), the court found that a section of the Voting Rights Act was unconstitutional. What was their justification? Do you think it was a legitimate consideration?
  5. Voter identification laws have been a hot button and extremely controversial issue. What do you think is the proper balance between voter access and precautions against voting fraud?

Extension

Have students write a one page essay analyzing one of the four supreme court cases discussed in the eLesson, with a particular emphasis on the key constituional principle at the heart of each case. Students should use additional outside research to flesh out their arguments.