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Florence M. Kelley ’37 Family Law Prize Paper. Family Law teachers V. Schultz, J. K. Peters To the student who demonstrates exceptional interest or achievement in the area of family law


Obergefell v. Hodges, holding that limitations of marriage to different-sex couples violate the Constitution, and similar state and federal decisions raise the question of whether states must, on the same logic, also recognize marriages with more than two partners. I take up this question in this paper, considering the legal arguments that have been made and adopted by courts for the constitutional invalidity of limiting marriage to different-sex couples, and how readily they apply to limiting marriage to two-person relationships. Because recognizing marriages with more than two partners likely requires restructuring the legal rights and duties attached to marriage, raising difficult questions of interpersonal fairness, I conclude that ultimately there is a strong basis for distinguishing the constitutional issues raised by the same-sex marriage cases from those raised by a hypothetical challenge to two-person-only marriage laws.

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