In 1983, Evan Wolfson ’83 authored a prescient third year paper titled “Samesex Marriage and Morality: The Human Rights Vision of the Constitution.” Thirty years and countless examinations of the constitution later, two cases regarding gay marriage, Hollingsworth v. Perry (challenging California’s Proposition 8) and United States v. Windsor (challenging the Defense of Marriage Act) are being argued in front of the Supreme Court on March 26 and 27.
Wolfson, who founded and is president of Freedom to Marry, led a wave of Harvard Law School students and faculty members who fought for or participated in the discussion about gay marriage. The Caspersen Room in the Harvard Law School Library is currently displaying an exhibit documenting the involvement of HLS students, faculty and alumni in the long road to marriage equality. The exhibit includes Wolfson’s 3L paper along with briefs and other exhibits from HLS Professors Elizabeth Bartholet ‘65, Lawrence Lessig, Frank Michelman ‘60, William Rubenstein ‘86, Carol Steiker ‘86 and Laurence Tribe, ‘66; Lecturers on Law Kevin Russell and Benjamin Heineman Jr., as well as Associate Professor at Loyola Law School Douglas NeJaime ‘03, many of whom have advocated before the courts on behalf of LGBT rights.
Today nine states have legalized same-sex marriage, with Massachusetts leading the way with the 2003 Goodridge v. Department of Public Health decision, which led to much public and intra-Harvard thought and debate, covered in The Record and the Harvard Law School Bulletin. The Goodridge opinion was written by former Chief Justice of the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts Margaret Marshall, who is now on the HLS faculty as Senior Research Fellow and Lecturer on Law.
Earlier this year, at the Supreme Court’s request, Professor Vicki Jackson submitted amicus briefs on the jurisdictional and standing issues in Windsor, while other Harvard Law School faculty and scholars have contributed to many of the briefs on the merits of both cases. In his new book, “From the Closet to the Altar: Courts, Backlash, and the Struggle for Same-Sex Marriage,” HLS Professor Michael Klarman explores the legal history of same-sex marriage. While the Supreme Court deliberates, other members of the Harvard Law School community continue to theorize, advocate and shape the freedom to marry both here in the United States and overseas.
Curated by HLS Library staff members Mindy Kent and Margaret Peachy, the exhibit will be on view through July 2013.