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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Professors and students at Penn State Law celebrated Constitution Day on Sept. 17 with events throughout the day. Faculty held an open panel discussion, while students organized an interactive lobby display for anyone in the Lewis Katz Building to explore.
Professors Jill Engle, Dara Purvis, and Stephen Ross participated in a panel discussion and a Q&A that focused on due process and how the Constitution, which was signed in 1787, is still relevant today. Namely, they focused on the history of marriage equality cases, including Perry v. Brown and Obergefell v. Hodges.
“We have been honored as a generation,” said Engle, director of the Family Law Clinic, “to see so much progress and change in marriage equality in such a short amount of time; from the 1970s, when the first substantial case was filed in Hawaii, until today, when marriage equality is assured to every citizen through the Fourteenth Amendment.”
Purvis and Engle highlighted Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy’s opinion in the case of Obergefell v. Hodges, which insists that we must understand the uses of the Constitution as cultures evolve:
“The nature of injustice is that we may not always see it in our own times. The generations that wrote and ratified the Bill of Rights and the Fourteenth Amendment did not presume to know the extent of freedom in all of its dimensions, and so they entrusted to future generations a charter protecting the right of all persons to enjoy liberty as we learn its meaning. When new insight reveals discord between the Constitution’s central protections and a received legal stricture, a claim to liberty must be addressed.”
Throughout the day in the lobby of the Katz Building, students set up a museum-esque display showcasing video kiosks, educational information, and a mock Constitution that students could sign. The videos depicted faculty expressing their thoughts on the Constitution, from their favorite amendment to how they apply the Constitution in the classes they teach.
Constitution Day (or Citizenship Day) is an American federal observance that recognizes the adoption of the United States Constitution and those who have become U.S. citizens. It is normally observed on September 17, the day in 1787 that delegates to the Constitutional Convention signed the document in Philadelphia.