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Bowdoin College Library

The Supreme Court & Social Change, Gov 1004: Home

Gov 1004, Fall 2016

Professor: Maron Sorenson

Librarian: Barbara Levergood

Call number ranges to browse

Please browse the shelves and examine at least one publication in at least one call number range on the 2nd or 3rd floor and one in the basement.

Social Sciences

2nd floor of HL

HQ 767 – HQ 767.52 - The family. Abortion

HQ 1033 – HQ 1034 - The family. Same-sex marriage

Political science

3rd floor of HL

JC 571 – JC 628 - Political theory. Civil rights


3rd floor of HL

K 3236 – K 3278 - Comparative law. Constitutional law. Civil rights

KF 228 – KF 229 - Civil trials

KF 539 - Family law. Same-sex marriage. Civil unions.

KF 3771 - Social legislation. Public welfare. Abortion.

KF 4501 – KF 5130 - Constitutional law

KF 4741 – KF 4786 - Constitutional law. Civil and political rights and liberties

KF 8700 – KF 8709 - Courts. Procedure. Administration of justice.

KF 8741 – KF 8748 - U.S. Supreme Court

KF 9315 - Criminal law. Abortion.

Government Documents (Federal)

Govt Doc collection in the basement of HL

Govt Doc Y 4.J89/2: - Senate Judiciary Committee hearings

Govt Doc Y 10 - Congressional Budget Office

The impact of recognizing same-sex marriage. What do we know and how do we know it?


Each group should download their document and focus on the claims specified under "Government documents". Answer the questions under "Questions for each group to answer". (The questions are either about the document specified under "Government documents" or about the document that is the source of the evidence for the claim.) Each group should prepare a 3 minute (maximum) presentation based on the prompt under "To discuss in group presentations".

Government documents

  • Group 1: The Potential Budgetary Impact of Recognizing Same-Sex Marriages, June 21, 2004. Focus on these claims:
    1. pg. 6, para 4 beginning "If permitted to marry". "If permitted to marry, same-sex couples would benefit from those spousal and survivor features. However, their gains would be modest."
    2. pg. 9, para 4 beginning "Federal Employees Health Benefits Program". "CBO estimates that covering the same-sex spouses of retired enrollees in the FEHB program would cost the government less than $50 million a year through 2014."
  • Group 2: S. 598, the Respect for Marriage Act: Assessing the Impact of DOMA on American Families, July 20, 2011. Note that "traditionally, the majority party member with the greatest seniority on a particular committee serves as its chairman." (Source) Focus on these claims:
    1. pg. 284: "Data suggests that children raised by same-sex couples are equivalent to children of heterosexual partners in their psychological adjustment, cognitive abilities, and social relationships with peers and adults."
    2. pg. 212, para 1 beginning "In fact": “Children living with their own married biological or adoptive mothers and fathers were generally healthier and happier, had better access to health care, less likely to suffer mild or severe emotional problems, did better in school, were protected from physical, emotional, and sexual abuse and almost never live in poverty, compared with children in any other family form.”
      Compared with pp. 26-27, exchange beginning "Senator FRANKEN. Mr. Minnery":
      "And actually does not say what you said it says. It says that nuclear families, not opposite-sex married families, are associated with those positive outcomes. […] The study defines a nuclear family as 'one or more children living with two parents who are married to one another and are each biological or adoptive parents to all the children in the family'."
  • Group 3: Use the same document as Group 2. Focus on these claims:
    1. pg. 15, top para. "Should DOMA be repealed, parents in those States which have registered their approval of traditional marriages will be faced with the problems of coping with marriages of which they overwhelmingly disapprove."
    2. pg. 45, para 6 beginning "So I hope we will repeal DOMA": "CBO came to the following conclusion in 2004: 'If DOMA were repealed, revenues would be higher by less than $400 million a year from 2005 through 2010 and by $500 million to $700 million from 2011 to 2014.' [...] Repealing DOMA makes good fiscal sense."
  • Group 4: Recognition of same-sex marriage: implications for religious objections, R44244, October 23, 2015. Focus on claims made in these sections:
    1. pp. 9-10, section entitled "Objections to issuing same-sex marriage licenses by state officials"
    2. pg. 19-20, section entitled "Implications of Hobby Lobby [...]"
    and Social Security and Same-Sex Marriage: Post Obergefell V. Hodges, R44314, December 18, 2015. Focus on this claim:
    1. pg. 7, para beginning "Because eligibility". "Individuals in a same-sex marriage are now eligible for spousal Social Security benefits, if they have met other statutory requirements."

Questions for each group to answer ...

... about the government document

  1. What is the agency or committee author of the government document?
    • Use the U.S. Government Manual, the Washington Information Directory, or the agency/committee website to find out what the agency/committee does.
    • If there is also a personal author, what are his/her qualifications?
  2. What is the audience for the document? Why was the document written; what was its purpose?
  3. For each claim listed above for your document, did the agency/committee make that claim or did an individual do so? If an individual, what were that individual's qualifications?
  4. What is the evidence that that would be the impact?
    • What type of evidence is it? (qualitative, quantitative, legal, anecdotal, ...)
    • In your judgment, does the evidence as described appear to support the impact claimed? Why or why not?
    • What other types of evidence bearing on that impact can you imagine?
  5. Do you perceive any bias or subjectivity on the part of the agency or personal author of the document? On the part of the person making the claim (if that is a different person)? Is there potential for undetected bias or subjectivity?

... about the source of the evidence

  1. What agency/individual is the source of the evidence for the claim?
    • If an agency, use the U.S. Government Manual, the Washington Information Directory, or the agency website to find out what the source agency does. If an individual(s), what are her/his qualifications?
  2. What is the audience for that document? Why was the document written; what was its purpose?
  3. Try to find the document that is the source of the evidence. (This may not always be possible in the time that we have. Ask Prof. Sorenson or Barbara for assistance if needed.)
  4. Do you perceive any bias or subjectivity on the part of the source of the evidence?

To discuss in group presentations

  1. Introduce the audience to the agency and document.
  2. Compare and contrast your findings about each of the document's claims and sources. How are they similar? How do they differ? Which are most compelling and why?


Barbara Levergood's picture
Barbara Levergood
Bowdoin College
H-L Library, Office 110B
3000 College Station
Brunswick, Maine 04011-8421
fax: 207-725-3083
Website / Blog Page

Bowdoin College Library
3000 College Station
Brunswick, ME 04011