This last year, we sponsored the 2016 Peck Law Firm Scholarship contest to help one student with the rising financial tolls of higher education.
The scholarship required students to write an essay explaining the effects that the legalization of gay marriage will have on religion, culture, and/or family law in America. We understand this has always been an extremely controversial topic with many different opposing views. That’s why we wanted to see how students thought this landmark decision would affect America as a whole.
We received over 100 applications from all over the country! Each essay showed exemplary thought and we appreciate all the hard work students put into them.
The essays were all read and judged without any reference to where the writer lived or attended school, or any other identifying information like race, age, or gender. After countless hours and multiple readings of the essays over the course of two months, one essay stuck out as superior to the many outstanding ones we received.
That being said, we are pleased to announce that the winner of the 2016 Peck Law Firm Scholarship is Bennett Lunn!
Bennett graduated from South Aiken High School in the Spring of 2016 with a 3.875 GPA and will be attending the University of South Carolina Honors College this fall. He will be majoring in International Business and Pre-Law.
Not only was Bennett an excellent student throughout his high school career, but he was also involved in numerous extracurricular activities including: National Honor Society, DECA, NJROTC, and Model UN. He was also extremely involved in theatre, student council, and the school newspaper.
Lastly, Bennett was elected to NRECA’s Youth Council, has worked on multiple investment advisory projects, and won the Erskine and USCA scholar awards.
We are extremely proud of Bennett and have posted his winning essay at the bottom of this blog.
We wish we had enough funds to award scholarships to everyone who applied and we regret we were forced to choose only one winner.
We want to thank all our applicants for their outstanding submissions and we can’t wait to see what is in store for the 2017 scholarship contest.
Here is Bennett’s winning essay:
“In the summer of 2015, the Supreme Court made a landmark decision in the case of Obergefell v. Hodges that bans against gay marriage were unconstitutional. Like a stone in a pond, legal decisions of this magnitude have repercussions, which resonate both culturally and legally. As the United States absorbs the ripples of this “stone,” we can expect to see changes in culture, including shifts in religious perspectives and the growth of social divides, and the legal system, including alterations in divorce and marriage law.
Regardless of one’s moral opinions about homosexual marriage, there is no question that the Supreme Court’s legal affirmation of this practice will have consequences for our culture as a whole. This issue has long been the subject of heated argument, primarily because the parties involved have such strong opinions. Given the incendiary nature of this issue, it is likely that the Supreme Court’s decision will only lead to further polarization. After all, those in support of gay marriage are likely to feel bolstered by the support of the courts, while those against are likely to feel vindicated in their opinions because the decision came from the courts and not elected legislators. As each side becomes further confirmed in their own beliefs, the divide between the two may grow. Marriage is an integral part of every culture. A society’s view on marriage encompasses a wide range of moral questions, including those regarding what constitutes love, what it means to be a parent, and whether or not marriage should be viewed as a spiritual contract or a social contract. As such, any change in our view of marriage as a culture implicates a change in our culture as a whole. The formal support of gay marriage by the Supreme Court lends itself to a more liberal viewpoint, and, because an important government institution is showing support for this issue, it is likely that this decision could lead to a decrease in conservative values in the country over time. It is undeniable that when a respected body such as the Supreme Court shows support for an issue, the masses tend to follow. Over time, this could mean that people choose more liberal answers for the questions listed above. Whether this is a good or bad thing has yet to be seen. However, one thing is known for sure; this decision will have cultural ramifications for many years to come.
Given the omnipresent nature of marriage, the cultural effects of this decision are bound to be reflected in the legal system, primarily in the field of family law. However, it is unlikely that laws regarding heterosexual marriage will be impacted much. Rather, this decision’s primary legal impact will be on the part of those seeking homosexual marriage. Apart from the obvious legal protection of the right to marry, this will offer homosexual partners a myriad of new marital rights. In the past, same-sex partners have filed for “marriage equivalents” or “marriage alternatives” in order to gain certain marital rights. Now, however, these will become effectively obsolete. Same sex partners will now enjoy the same rights and benefits of marriage as straight couples, including the ability to adopt with custody of the child being granted to both parents, to share spousal insurance coverage, and to receive certain reduced tax benefits. Furthermore, the processes of divorce, remarriage, receiving inheritance, receiving social security benefits, and tending to posthumous affairs will all be more straightforward. For instance, before the decision of Obergefell v. Hodges, if one member of a homosexual couple survived the other, and the couple had not written a will, he/she would have had to go through a variety of legal hoops in order to ensure that their would receive custody of any adopted children or any inheritance money. By gaining the same marital status as a heterosexual couple, same-sex couples will have a much easier time of sorting posthumous affairs. In these ways, this ruling will have a great impact on family law. For the most part, however, these changes only provide homosexual couples the same accessibility to marital rights that straight couples have always benefitted from. Only time will tell whether or not this new accessibility will impact all families. Regardless, the Supreme Court’s decision has opened up new grey areas in family law, particularly regarding divorce, that will most likely be determined on a case by case basis in the years to come.
Whether it is the ability of a same-sex couple to share custody of a child or the polarization of cultural factions, the legalization of gay marriage has changed and will continue to change the social and legal landscape of the United States. It is my belief that the majority of the ramifications of Obergefell v. Hodges have yet to be seen. In the years to come, I suspect that the many opinions that surround this subject will once again come to head, and as a result even more changes will be made that will also have social and legal impacts. In any case, while the Supreme Court’s decision may have been a victory for equal rights activists, it remains to be seen how it will affect the rest of the population.”