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History of Modern Same-Sex Marriage Litigation

On March 26 and March 27, the United States Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in two cases involving same-sex marriage. The first, Hollingsworth v. Perry, addresses California’s Proposition 8, and will ask the question of whether or not the 14th Amendment prohibits the State of California from defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman. The second, U.S. v. Windsor, will address whether or not the federal Defense of Marriage Act violates the equal protection guarantees in the Fifth Amendment’s due process clause, as applied to same-sex couples legally married in the laws of their own state. The resulting opinions of the Court in both cases will likely have long lasting effects on Constitutional law in the United States as well as the rights of same-sex couples throughout the nation. A new book in the law library's collection, From the Closet to the Altar: Courts, Backlash, and the struggle for Same-Sex Marriage, by Michael J. Klarman (KF 539 .K58 2013) provides the history of  both the events and litigation that have lead to our nation's current outlook on same-sex marriage.

Klarman begins with the 1950s and 1960s, when every state criminalized private, consensual sex between same-sex partners, and moves to the birth of the gay rights movement, the Stonewall Rebellion in 1969. From there, he continues to the 1990s, when the Hawaii Supreme Court in Baehr v. Lewin declared that a law restricting marriage to a man and a woman constitutes an impermissible sex classification, and the state and federal "defense of marriage acts" that followed. As Klarman continues in this style, presenting court victories for same-sex partners, only to be followed by political backlash, he provides tremendous detail and color, giving the reader a historical perceptive and framework for considering how the nation's opinion on this once taboo issue has changed. His consideration of triumphs and setbacks also give the reader an insiders knowledge of the litigation and political efforts, and the strategies behind them. For anyone interested in a well-researched, thoughtful look at the recent history of what is sure to become one of the most remembered constitutional law issues of this century, and the most anticipated Supreme Court rulings, From the Closet to the Altar is highly recommended.


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