From the Closet to the Altar: Courts, Backlash, and the Struggle for Same-Sex Marriage

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Overview


Same-sex marriage has become one of the most volatile issues in American politics. But if most young people support gay marriage, and if there are clear indicators that a substantial majority of the population will soon favor it, why has the outcry against it been so strong?

Bancroft Prize-winning historian and legal expert Michael Klarman here offers an illuminating and engaging account of modern litigation over same-sex marriage. After looking at the treatment of gays in the ...

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From the Closet to the Altar: Courts, Backlash, and the Struggle for Same-Sex Marriage

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Overview


Same-sex marriage has become one of the most volatile issues in American politics. But if most young people support gay marriage, and if there are clear indicators that a substantial majority of the population will soon favor it, why has the outcry against it been so strong?

Bancroft Prize-winning historian and legal expert Michael Klarman here offers an illuminating and engaging account of modern litigation over same-sex marriage. After looking at the treatment of gays in the decades after World War II and the birth of the modern gay rights movement with the Stonewall Rebellion in 1969, Klarman describes the key legal cases involving gay marriage and the dramatic political backlashes they ignited. He examines the Hawaii Supreme Court's ruling in 1993, which sparked a vast political backlash--with more than 35 states and Congress enacting defense-of-marriage acts--and the Massachusetts decision in Goodridge in 2003, which inspired more than 25 states to adopt constitutional bans on same-sex marriage. Klarman traces this same pattern--court victory followed by dramatic backlash--through cases in Vermont, California, and Iowa, taking the story right up to the present. He also describes some of the collateral political damage caused by court decisions in favor of gay marriage--Iowa judges losing their jobs, Senator Majority Leader Tom Daschle losing his seat, and the possibly dispositive impact of gay marriage on the 2004 presidential election. But Klarman also notes several ways in which litigation has accelerated the coming of same-sex marriage: forcing people to discuss the issue, raising the hopes and expectations of gay activists, and making other reforms like civil unions seem more moderate by comparison. In the end, Klarman discusses how gay marriage is likely to evolve in the future, predicts how the U.S. Supreme Court might ultimately resolve the issue, and assesses the costs and benefits of activists' pursuing social reforms such as gay marriage through the courts.

From the Closet to the Altar will stand as the definitive one-volume history of the tumultuous emergence of same-sex marriage in American life as well as a landmark study of litigation, social reform, and the phenomenon of political backlash to court decisions.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
At a time when the role of the Supreme Court is again in the headlines, following its ruling upholding Obamacare, Harvard Law School’s Klarman does a remarkable job using the debate over gay marriage as a lens for examining the factors that will go into the Court’s inevitable engagement with the issue. Klarman (From Jim Crow to Civil Rights: The Supreme Court and the Struggle for Racial Equality) effectively conveys the history of the issue, from the 1950s to 2012, and provides just enough detail to allow lay readers to emerge with an informed understanding of the twisted path same-sex marriage has taken. Unfamiliar readers are likely to be surprised by how recently the cause landed on the national gay rights agenda, and will be intrigued by the debates within the gay community about the wisdom of pursuing such a goal. (Some viewed all marriage as part of a “patriarchal system,” while others viewed it as an abandonment of “transforming the very fabric of society” by becoming mainstream.) Klarman repeatedly refers to the role of popular culture in shaping public opinion toward gays in general, and discusses how such shifts influence court rulings. Advocates will be encouraged by his well-buttressed conclusion: “Once public opinion has shifted overwhelmingly in favor… the Court will constitutionalize the emerging consensus.” (Oct.)
From the Publisher
"A fascinating read, full of detail, and an important contribution to our understanding of the legal and political influences on America's fastest moving social change movement."—Richard Socarides, former Clinton White House Special Assistant, attorney and long-time gay rights advocate

"Michael Klarman, a distinguished legal historian and constitutional scholar, has written a fascinating and authoritative history of the efforts through litigation to legalize homosexual marriage-efforts that seemed at first fated only to create a backlash against homosexual rights, yet that eventually merged with a surprising evolution of American public opinion in favor of legalization, and may be on the brink of success. His book is indispensable to understanding a legal movement that is being compared to the legal movement to desegregate the South."—Judge Richard A. Posner, United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

"Litigation has played a key role in catalyzing-and helping to win-gay people's struggle to achieve marriage equality. But these court victories have not been without their political costs. Michael Klarman assesses these intertwining stories with insight and objectivity, making his book a must-read for anyone interested in how courts shape the trajectories of social movements."—Patrick Egan, New York University

"Klarman's historical account is comprehensive, trenchant, and provocative." —The York Review of Books

"A fascinating read, full of detail, and an important contribution to our understanding of the legal and political influences on America's fastest moving social change movement."—Richard Socarides, former Clinton White House Special Assistant, attorney and long-time gay rights advocate

"Michael Klarman, a distinguished legal historian and constitutional scholar, has written a fascinating and authoritative history of the efforts through litigation to legalize homosexual marriage-efforts that seemed at first fated only to create a backlash against homosexual rights, yet that eventually merged with a surprising evolution of American public opinion in favor of legalization, and may be on the brink of success. His book is indispensable to understanding a legal movement that is being compared to the legal movement to desegregate the South."—Judge Richard A. Posner, United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

"Litigation has played a key role in catalyzing-and helping to win-gay people's struggle to achieve marriage equality. But these court victories have not been without their political costs. Michael Klarman assesses these intertwining stories with insight and objectivity, making his book a must-read for anyone interested in how courts shape the trajectories of social movements."—Patrick Egan, New York University

"Klarman's historical account is comprehensive, trenchant, and provocative." —The York Review of Books

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780199922109
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 10/5/2012
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 538,759
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Michael J. Klarman is the Kirkland & Ellis Professor at Harvard Law School. He is the author of From Jim Crow to Civil Rights: The Supreme Court and the Struggle for Racial Equality (winner of the Bancroft Prize in History in 2005), Unfinished Business: Racial Equality in American History, and Brown v. Board of Education and the Civil Rights Movement.

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Table of Contents

Chapter 1: World War II to Stonewall Chapter 2: Stonewall to Bowers v. Hardwick Chapter 3: Hawaii Chapter 4: Vermont Chapter 5: Massachusetts Chapter 6: Post-Goodridge to Proposition 8
Chapter 7: To The Present Chapter 8: Why Backlash?
Chapter 9: Conclusions and Predictions

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