cover image The Engagement: America’s Quarter-Century Struggle over Same-Sex Marriage

The Engagement: America’s Quarter-Century Struggle over Same-Sex Marriage

Sasha Issenberg. Pantheon, $40 (928p) ISBN 978-1-5247-4873-9

Journalist Issenberg (Outpatients) depicts both sides of the debate over same-sex marriage in this comprehensive history. Issenberg begins in Hawaii in 1990, when three LGBTQ couples partnered with a local activist to apply for marriage licenses and set in motion a lawsuit that resulted in the first state or federal court decision “acknowledg[ing] that a fundamental right to marriage could extend to gay couples.” Social conservatives responded with plans to protect heterosexual marriage through the Defense of Marriage Act, while same-sex couples in other states were inspired to push for more rulings in support of gay marriage. Issenberg details the strategizing and motivations on both sides of the issue (though more attention is paid to pro-LGBTQ initiatives) as a variety of groups waged public opinion campaigns through state-level legislative agendas and proposed constitutional amendments. He also makes clear that money, in particular the strategic fund-raising of LGBTQ activist and software company founder Tim Gill, played a key role in paving the way to the 2015 Supreme Court decision that legalized same-sex marriage nationwide. Issenberg lucidly delineates this multifaceted and complex topic and movingly profiles key players including Ninia Baehr and Genora Dancel, original litigants in the Hawaii case. The magnitude of detail slows the proceedings somewhat, but even readers well-versed in the subject will learn something new. The result is a definitive portrait of a key victory in the battle for LGBTQ rights. (June)