A diligent archive of gay marriage equality from its roots as a hopeful pipe dream to its realization as a civil right.
Frank (Unfriendly Fire: How the Gay Ban Undermines the Military and Weakens America, 2009), a journalist and director of the What We Know Project at Columbia Law School, retraces the history of and battle for same-sex marriage as a timeless “quest by LGBTQ people to take themselves and their love seriously.” He begins in the 1950s and early ’60s, when, even amid a general fear of homosexual exposure, a gay magazine pushed boundaries with a cover story advocating the social acceptance and normalization of “homophile marriage.” Just a few years before the Stonewall uprising, the article energized interest in a civil rights movement that would accelerate into the coming decades as tolerance and equality became paramount issues within gay and lesbian subcultures. Frank’s attention to historic detail is comprehensive and impressive, as is his ability to breezily recapture the trials of marriage equality and weave them into the general narrative of American LGBTQ history. With verve and a crisp, authoritative tone, the author sweeps readers through a history of civil rights campaigning in the 1970s, domestic partnership ordinances in the ’80s, and the story of how AIDS and protest movements produced an unshakeable solidarity. “If AIDS spurred greater familiarity, sympathy, and understanding of the gay community by the straight world,” writes the author, “it had an equally profound impact on gay people and activism.” Major steps forward were often set against backdrops of anti-gay ideologies, religious persecution, anti-sodomy laws, and the early criminalization of gay life. As decisive as the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act was when it became federal law, it was equally so when struck down after vigorous opposition in 2013. These pivotal events were championed by such tireless crusaders as Harvey Milk, attorneys Roberta Kaplan and Mary Bonauto, and political activist Andrew Sullivan, all of whom the author references respectfully.
Frank’s strikingly detailed, essential reportage reminds readers of the gay community’s enduring fight for equality.