A New York Times reporter delivers a gripping narrative about the recent court battles involving California’s Proposition 8 (which outlawed gay marriage) and the Defense of Marriage Act.
In her note at the end, Becker writes that she enjoyed virtually unfettered access to the unlikely legal team that joined the opponents of Bush v. Gore (2000), conservative Ted Olson and liberal David Boies, in their battle against Prop 8 in the federal court system. But Olson and Boies aren’t the only notables. Becker also focuses on strategist Chad Griffin, on Hollywood’s contributions (especially the unrelenting efforts of Rob Reiner), Chuck Cooper (the lawyer for the opposition—he did not give the same access, but he was generous with post-trial interviews) and, of course, the four plaintiffs in the suit. (A California marriage in the final chapter is a genuine tear-jerker.) Although the author pauses occasionally to supply some background and/or history—the Dred Scott case, Brown v. Board of Education—her momentum is resolutely forward, her writing so brisk and urgent that even though we know the outcome, the tension in the courtroom scenes and the intervals of waiting for decisions remain taut, even nerve-wracking. Becker’s access gives us insights into other aspects of the story, as well—the deliberations within the Obama administration, the pro–gay marriage statements of Vice President Biden that seemed to animate the president, and the thinking in the Justice Department. She gives a gripping account of the trial in the U.S. District Court (with some fine analysis of the role of Judge Vaughn Walker, gay himself), some of which she reproduces directly from court records. Becker follows the case from there to the U.S. Court of Appeals and then the Supreme Court, where we listen to the oral arguments and follow the sometimes-twisted thinking of the justices.
First-rate reporting informs this thrilling narrative of hope.