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Angry debate over gay marriage is sweeping the country, threatening to divide the nation like no other issue since the Vietnam War. Why has marriage suddenly emerged as the most explosive issue in the gay struggle for equality? At times it seems to have come out of nowhere-but in fact it has a history.Drawing upon the unparalleled historical knowledge that established him as the principal author of the influential Historians' Amicus Brief filed in the landmark Supreme Court sodomy case Lawrence v. Texas, George Chauncey shows how the demand for the freedom to marry emerged from a decades-long struggle. He reminds us of the pervasive discrimination faced by lesbians and gay men only a few decades ago, when the federal government fired thousands of gay employees and restaurants were shut down for serving homosexuals. And he shows how the continuing discrimination faced by gay families-in insurance, pensions, and child custody struggles-led them to campaign for the protections of marriage.Chauncey gives us the history of the shifting attitudes of heterosexual Americans toward gays, from the dramatic growth in acceptance to the many campaigns against gay rights that form the background to today's demand for a constitutional amendment. He also connects religious opposition to interracial marriage and desegregation just fifty years ago with opposition to same-sex marriage today. Chauncey illuminates what's at stake for both sides, making this an essential book for gay and straight readers alike.
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George Chauncey is professor of American history at the University of Chicago and the author of Gay New York: Gender, Urban Culture, and the Making of the Gay Male World, 1890-1940 , which won the distinguished Turner and Curti Awards from the Organization of American Historians, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and the Lambda Literary Award. He testified as an expert witness on the history of antigay discrimination at the 1993 trial of Colorado's Amendment Two, which resulted in the Supreme Court's Romer v. Evans decision that antigay rights referenda were unconstitutional, and he was the principal author of the Historians' Amicus Brief, which weighed heavily in the Supreme Court's landmark decision overturning sodomy laws in Lawrence v. Texas (2003). The recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, he lives and works in Chicago.From Booklist:
Chauncey says this short book, written on a three-month deadline and between two long-gestating big books, was a challenge, and his strain shows in some poor and question-begging wording. Nevertheless, this is a swell, partisan, but not particularly argumentative U.S. gay-rights history primer, which makes at least two big points that need to be common knowledge. The first is that active antigay repression is largely a twentieth-century phenomenon; strong antigay law enforcement and many of the laws themselves date from the 1930s and became harsher and spread after World War II. The other is that marriage became a primary gay-rights goal because of AIDS and gay efforts to adopt, for AIDS patients' partners were barred from them in hospitals and stripped of jointly held property after they died, and gays wishing to share responsibility for partners' children had to leap costly legal hurdles. Marriage, with its presumption of mutual rights and responsibilities, would eliminate those and other barriers. Ray Olson
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