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Today's battle for same-sex marriage rights is only the latest step in the long struggle by lesbians and gay men to overturn a complex web of state laws banning nonreproductive sexual activity, often by heterosexuals as well as homosexuals. Laws against sodomy-or "crimes against nature," as they were called by colonial lawmakers-were based on English common law emanating from Christian interpretations of a few biblical passages. The Supreme Court declared them unconstitutional in 2003. n this fascinating and engaging survey, Yale law professor Eskridge (Gay Marriage: For Better or for Worse?) charts not just the destructive history of those laws, but also the long, complex and often deeply contradictory history of how Americans thought about sex and the right to privacy. While clearly explaining the laws' origins and impact from colonial America through the 19th century, most of the book examines how, from the 1930s onward, sodomy laws increasingly became the legal tool by which homosexuals were denied jobs and even the right to public assembly. Interweaving legal discussion with personal stories and social history, Eskridge gives an incisive, panoramic view of America's (slowly) changing attitudes toward homosexuality, sexual tolerance and personal freedom. B&w photos. (May 5)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.