Opinion: Next Generation of Leaders Should Focus on Equality, Not Just Liberty


During the regular school year, I teach constitutional law at the UNH School of Law. This past year, as the same-sex marriage cases made their way to the US Supreme Court, a major topic of discussion was whether the Court would ground a ruling in favor of same-sex couples solely in the Constitution’s promise of liberty – that is, a freedom from interference with the fundamental right to marry – or whether the Court might also employ an equal protection rationale that would make the case about more than just marriage. I was hoping for the latter, but was not holding my breath. For far too often, we default to liberty and flinch at the implications of a serious societal commitment to equality.

My students are often surprised to learn that the promise of equal protection of the laws was not formally part of the Constitution until 1868, when the Fourteenth Amendment was ratified. It’s understandable that students are surprised at the recent vintage of equality as a constitutional commitment. After all, the most famous statement in the Declaration of Independence reads: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

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New Hampshire Bar News

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