James C. Hormel LGBTQIA Center

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Same-Sex Marriage--a History of Struggle

Although Judge Vaughn Walker ruled on August 4th that preventing same-sex marriages in California violated both the due process and equal protection clauses of the U.S. Constitution, an emergency stay has been placed on these marriages at the request of proposition 8 proponents. Although the legal standing of those initiating the stay is not clear, during the week of December 6th a randomly selected, three judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court will determine the merits of Walker's ruling.

Our books this week take a look at the distance the LGBT community has traveled on this issue.

"Legalizing Gay Marriage," by Michael Mello was published in 2004. Mello, a professor of Law at Vermont Law School, chronicles the lengthy and ground-breaking struggle that made Vermont the first state to legalize civil unions in July of 2000 in the aftermath of the Baker decision a case of equal protection under the law involving three same-sex couples. In 1999, the very idea of any kind of partnership between people of the same gender was a highly controversial proposition and it was the ruling in Baker that paved the way for civil unions which many involved in the lawsuit considered unacceptable and "an erosion of the spirit" of those denied full marriage rights.

The book, "When Gay People Get Married: What Happens When Societies Legalize Same-Sex Marriage," by M.V. Lee Badgett takes the issue a step further and analyzes the ramifications of legalizing gay marriage in the Netherlands in 2001. Badgett is an Economics Professor and Director of the Center for Public Policy and Administration at University of Massachusetts, Amherst. She is also one of the expert witnesses testifying in the Perry v Schwarzenegger, Prop. 8 trial. She writes with the sociological bent of an economist examining the issues in a more personal light. The book details how broadening the definition of marriage has affected not only people's perception and attitudes toward LGBT people but also how the institution of marriage is broadened and changed by a more-incusive definition. It offers concrete evidence that equality can become law and the sky will not fall as well as interviews with people who hold a range of beliefs as to the meaning of marriage.

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