The escalating controversy over gay marriage is getting the attention of book publishers, with two trade houses in as many weeks revealing plans to speed titles on same-sex matrimony to market.

Basic Books has signed historian George Chauncey to write Why Marriage? The History Shaping Today's Debate over Gay Equality and plans to publish it August 3, in between the Democratic and Republican party conventions. "Part of our thinking was that George had to rush this," said Basic Books publisher Elizabeth Maguire. "I called him when the marriage explosion was hitting the media in a major way in San Francisco and Boston."

Basic's deal follows a mid-March announcement by Chronicle Books that it is publishing an instant gift book titled We Do: Portraits of Gay Marriage, scheduled to be released May 1.

Chauncey is the award-winning writer of Gay New York: Gender, Urban Culture, and the Making of the Gay Male World, 1890—1940, which Basic published in 1994. He has temporarily put aside the sequel he was working on to concentrate on Why Marriage?, which, Maguire said, will be "a short, snappy book" that runs about 200 pages. Chauncey will look at the history of discrimination against homosexuals and how constitutional issues and religious beliefs have shaped evolving attitudes toward gay marriage. Basic plans a 60,000-copy printing and will support the book with a six-city tour and a 20-city radio satellite tour.

Why Marriage? and We Do will join several titles on the subject either recently released or scheduled for publication this spring. Publishers are hoping to capitalize on the surge of interest in same-sex marriage with a mix of new and reissued titles. It is unclear, though, whether headlines will translate into book sales. Ed Devereaux, owner of Unabridged Books in Chicago, said nonfiction sells best in his store when it goes beyond the current news and explains the history behind an issue. "A book can be about a hot topic and not be a hot seller," he said.