Shout out to Alexandria Behul, University of Florida Levin College of Law, not a winner, but deserving of Honorable Mention, for her essay on the top of “How has the definition of marriage and/or family changed over the last century?”
Without further preamble, enjoy Alexandria’s essay.
It is unknown when marriage first originated but it seems to predate all existent civilizations, religions, and political systems. According to Judeo-Christian ideology and the writings of The Bible, the traditional form of marriage is between a man and a woman. Changes in society, which prompted more acceptance for the desegregation between the races, an increased societal approval of the LGBTQ+ community, and a decline in arranged marriages, have altered the structure of marriage and the idea of family. The transformations have strengthened the institution of marriage as these new freedoms become available to new generations.
The Supreme Court of the United States has consistently ruled that there is a fundamental right to marriage. The evolution of marriage first began to take shape when the Supreme Court struck down anti-miscegenation laws in Loving v. Virginia, 388 U.S. 1 (1967). Loving affirmed that “marriage is one of the basic civil rights of man, fundamental to our very existence and survival,” and added that this right should not be restricted based on a characteristic so insignificant as race and the decision on whether to marry, or not, remains with the individual. This specific change in the concept of marriage affects me personally because my mother is African-American and my father is Caucasian, similar to Mildred and Richard Loving.
The Supreme Court’s reasoning in Loving was used to expand the concept of marriage once again in our nation’s history. Around the year 2000, when the gay community began to assert their civil rights, the issue of same-sex marriage became a topic of discussion. The issue of gay rights evolved over the years and as of June 26, 2015, the issue of a fundamental right to marry, including the issue of same-sex marriage was finally resolved in Obergefell v. Hodges, 576 U.S. (2015). The Court ruled that marriage is inherent to the concept of individual autonomy, protects the most intimate association between two people, safeguards children and families, and has historically been recognized as the keystone of social order.
Accordingly, the fundamental right to marry in the United States has existed a little more than a century, expanding and developing as time progressed. The concept of marriage been long rooted in this country’s history and now is able to reach all United States citizens, regardless of whom they choose to love.
Despite the concept of marriage, individuals do not need to be married to be considered a family. When you hear the term “family” you tend to think of a husband and a wife raising children. However, as society advanced and attitudes towards different lifestyles have become more open, the term has evolved into a fluid concept that is open to a variety of different combinations. A family inherently means individuals who love each unconditionally, regardless of the circumstances of race, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, etc. A family can be recognized as two non-married individuals, a single parent working hard to take care of his/her child, a married couple with no children, and a person living alone taking care of a dog.
Throughout the last century, the concept of marriage and family has dramatically advanced in bringing together a multi-faceted kaleidoscope of different images of what is recognized as a family. It also brings attention to how privileged we are to witness this societal acceptance of love, given the history of discrimination experienced in this country. We are fortunate to bear witness to love winning.