GED Sample Questions: Social Studies Extended Response

The Social Studies portion of the GED will include an extended response, or essay, portion. This is similar to the Reasoning Through Language Arts extended response. You will need to be able to formulate a clear, concise, organized response.

The Extended Response

Time: 25 minutes

Your assignment: Develop an argument on how the following passage reflects an enduring issue in American history. (Note: An enduring issue is one that “reflects the founding principles of the United States and is an important idea that people often grapple with as new situations arise” [GED.com].) Incorporate material from the passage, the 14th Amendment, and your own knowledge of the enduring issues surrounding this issue to support your argument.

14th Amendment of the Constitution of the United States

Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.

No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), passed in 1996, made it possible for state governments to refuse to recognize same-sex marriage granted in other jurisdictions. Section 3 of the Act made it impossible for same-sex couples to receive spousal benefits and any other federal benefits, from health insurance to social security benefits. That section was ruled unconstitutional in 2013.

The second section of DOMA continues to exist. It exempts states, tribes, and possessions of the United States from the Constitutional requirements to recognize marriages formalized in another state. Any state can refuse to recognize same-sex marriages formalized elsewhere. The Constitution guarantees that marriages performed in any state are recognized in every other state, but the remnants of DOMA grant states an exemption on same-sex marriage.

For the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community, this means that discrimination remains in effect in numerous states that have not made same-sex marriage legal. Discrimination of any kind is in theory inappropriate, and yet the continuation of the second section of the Defense of Marriage Act allows it. This, too, is in direct violation of Section 1 of the 14th Amendment.

Further, there are no federal laws that prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, and in any case, they generally would not apply to the private sector or religious organizations. More than half of the states have no prohibitions against discrimination based on sexual orientation or identity.

There has been obvious progress. The military has ended the policy of “Don't ask, don't tell” and ended discrimination based on sexual orientation. Some states now allow same-sex marriages and more have some degree of legal protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Discrimination based on sexual orientation is not permitted in federal health care programs, and there is some limited protection under federal hate crime laws. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ruled in 2011 and again in 2012 that job discrimination based on sexual orientation also is a form of discrimination covered by the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Despite all these changes, there is much left to do.

To be a nation truly committed to equal rights, there must be federal legislation that applies across the country, public, and private sector alike. The hodgepodge of state legislation is not adequate, and the statement by President Obama that the federal government would no longer enforce Section 2 of the 14th Amendment is not enough. There must be clear direction and leadership. Without such, there is no equality of rights.

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