COURTING JUSTICE: Gay Men and Lesbians v. the Supreme Court

Joyce Murdoch, Author, Deb Price, Joint Author . Basic $30 (582p) ISBN 978-0-465-01513-9

The Supreme Court's complicated relationship with lesbians and gay men in the U.S. is the focus of this well-researched, highly informative and chatty history of the Court's rulings concerning homosexuality. Murdoch (a former editor and reporter at the Washington Post) and Price (a syndicated columnist on lesbian and gay issues) follow the evolution of gay rights from a 1950s U.S. postal ban against "the nation's first homosexual publication," One magazine, to Bowers v. Hardwick in 1986, which addressed the legality of homosexual sex, and the recent discrimination case brought against the Boy Scouts. The authors' detailed reportage relies on court documents, news reports, oral arguments, written briefs and interviews with plaintiffs, defendants, lawyers and Supreme Court clerks (the justices themselves declined interviews). Surprising moments, like the discovery of Justice Powell's many homosexual clerks, and dramatic ones—such as public sparring between Justices Ginsberg and Scalia on Colorado's Amendment Two, which would have abrogated local initiatives banning discrimination against homosexuals—keep things lively. Murdoch and Price convey the sweep of gay legal history without skimping on personal portraits, including a restrained one of Clarence Thomas and a fascinating one of Justice Frank Murphy, who served in the 1940s until his death and was most probably gay. Despite occasional journalistic lapses, such as the authors' admission that they were initially "squeamish about the cases involving sleazy public sex arrests," this ambitious popular survey of gay and lesbian civil rights in the U.S. ably fills a gap in lesbian and gay studies and legal studies. 8 pages of photos. Agent, Charlotte Sheedy. (June)

Reviewed on: 05/28/2001
Release date: 05/01/2001
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