The story of a crucial trial to legitimize same-sex marriage.
As in his earlier book on civil rights, Covering (2006), legal scholar Yoshino (Constitutional Law/New York Univ. School of Law; A Thousand Times More Fair: What Shakespeare's Plays Teach Us About Justice, 2011, etc.) interweaves autobiography into a crisp, shrewd analysis of Hollingsworth v. Perry, the 12-day federal trial that considered California’s Proposition 8 banning same-sex marriage. A gay Asian-American, Yoshino married in 2009 as the suit was filed in California, and he and his husband became parents of a daughter and son during the four years of litigation. Centered on issues of love, commitment and family, the trial had personal as well as political and professional meaning for him. Its transcript, he writes, “captured the best conversation I had seen on same-sex marriage—better than any legislative hearing, any academic debate, or any media exchange.” The transcript contained intellectually rigorous arguments, pointed cross-examination of witnesses’ claims and allegations, and intense focus on points of law. Trials about gay rights issues, as one judge noted, were educational experiences that offered “an excellent opportunity to replace ignorance with knowledge.” In the Prop 8 case, Judge Vaughn Walker insisted on moving quickly to trial; he also wanted the proceedings streamed live to federal courthouses and posted on YouTube—both of which were blocked by the Supreme Court. The plaintiffs were represented by Ted Olson and David Boies, who had argued against each other in Bush v. Gore. The “inspired” pairing of the two savvy strategists, the author contends, “symbolically reunited the two halves of the country.” Besides chronicling testimony by experts and witnesses, Yoshino clearly explains relevant legal terms and identifies the three rationales that ultimately became prominent in the case: “optimal child rearing, the prevention of the dissolution of marriage, and the suppression of irresponsible procreation.”
Yoshino claims that he was riveted by the 3,000-page trial transcript; his cogent, incisive narrative is equally captivating.