This inquiry leads students through an investigation that explores the struggle for equality through social justice movements. Specifically, students explore the tension between the assumption that “all [people] are created equal,” a guiding principle from the Declaration of Independence, and the reality of legal and social structures that do not treat all people equally. By investigating the compelling question—What makes “equality” equal?—students problematize the concept of equality to consider a more nuanced definition that considers both legal equality (de jure equality) and social reality (de facto equality).
By exploring equality through the LGBTQ+ rights movement, students consider the various factors needed for equality to exist, including the reciprocal relationship between attitudes/behavior and the law. Historically marginalized groups, including members of the LGBTQ+ community, engage in various civic actions to build social awareness and support to change laws. It is also true that marginalized groups have worked to change laws even when there was little public support, which helped to change public opinion. Students consider how understanding of equality is ever evolving—both laws (or rules) and social reality (majority group sentiment) can influence our shared definition of equality.