Struggle Over Same-Sex Marriage
By Sasha Issenberg
The riveting story of the battles over gay marriage
in the United States – the most important
civil-rights breakthrough of the new millennium.
"Part Grisham-esque legal thriller, part Sorkin-esque political drama, and part Maddow-esque historical yarn."
—O: The Oprah Magazine, "Best LGBTQ Books of 2021"
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ABOUT THE BOOK
On June 26, 2015, the United States Supreme Court ruled that state bans on gay marriage were unconstitutional, making same-sex unions legal throughout the United States. But the road to victory was much longer than many know. In this seminal work, Sasha Issenberg takes us back to Hawaii in the 1990s, when that state's courts first started grappling with the question, through the emergence of the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996 that raised marriage to a national issue, to the first legal same-sex weddings in Massachusetts, to the epic face-off over California’s Proposition 8, and finally to the landmark Supreme Court decisions of Windsor and Obergefell. On June 26, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that state bans on gay marriage were unconstitutional, making same-sex unions legal across the United States. But the road to that momentous decision was much longer than many know. In this definitive account, Sasha Issenberg vividly guides us through same-sex marriage’s unexpected path from the unimaginable to the inevitable.
It is a story that begins in Hawaii in 1990, when a rivalry among local activists triggered a sequence of events that forced the state to justify excluding gay couples from marriage. In the White House, one president signed the Defense of Marriage Act, which elevated the matter to a national issue, and his successor tried to write it into the Constitution. Over twenty-five years, the debate played out across the country, from the first legal same-sex weddings in Massachusetts to the epic face-off over California’s Proposition 8 and, finally, to the landmark Supreme Court decisions of United States v. Windsor and Obergefell v. Hodges. From churches to hedge funds, no corner of American life went untouched.
This richly detailed narrative follows the coast-to-coast conflict through courtrooms and war rooms, bedrooms and boardrooms, to shed light on every aspect of a political and legal controversy that divided Americans like no other. Following a cast of characters that includes those who sought their own right to wed, those who fought to protect the traditional definition of marriage, and those who changed their minds about it, The Engagement is certain to become a seminal book on the modern culture wars. Read coverage and reviews of the book here.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Sasha Issenberg is the author of three previous books, on topics ranging from the global sushi business to medical tourism and the science of political campaigns. He covered the 2008 election as a national political reporter in the Washington bureau of The Boston Globe, the 2012 election for Slate, the 2016 election for Bloomberg Politics and Businessweek, and 2020 for The Recount. He is the Washington correspondent for Monocle, and has also written for New York magazine, The New York Times Magazine, and George, where he served as a contributing editor. He teaches in the political science department at UCLA. Read his magazine, newspaper, and other published work here.
photo by Carlos Chavarría
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“In this deeply engaging and comprehensively reported work, Sasha Issenberg traces the story of marriage equality from its beginnings as a nearly impossible dream to its current status as an essential right. This engrossing account of social change, political will and human rights arrives at a moment of great urgency. Issenberg’s narrative will inform the efforts of anyone who strives for a more equal country, and touch the heart of anyone who has seen their rights come up for debate."
author of Shortest Way Home: One Mayor’s Challenge and a Model for America’s Future
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