If this meticulously documented and compellingly narrated chronicle of the gay-related cases before the nation's highest court over the past fifty-odd years were even half as good as it is--or, ideally, half as long--it would still be terrific. Lending heft to the notion that the couple that investigates together domesticates together, veteran D.C. journalists Joyce Murdoch and Deb Price, life partners since 1985, have composed the gay bookend to Bob Woodward's The Brethren--with all the epic sweep, painstaking research and intimate storytelling of such nonfiction classics as And the Band Played On and Common Ground. Two cases here provide the book's anchors: 1986's Bowers v. Hardwick, which upheld Georgia's law against homosexual sodomy and provided an astonishingly hostile climax to two decades of high-court homophobia, and 1992's ruling that found unconstitutional Colorado's ban on equal protection of any sort for gays--the Court's greatest and most respectful affirmation of gay rights, if not much of a promise that the court would rule with equal sensitivity on future gay-related cases.
Beyond those two seminal rulings, Murdoch and Price cover what seems like, and may well be, every gay-oriented case to so much as petition the Court since the Eisenhower years. That comprehensiveness can become a little exhausting, amounting as it does largely to a dispiriting archive of the myriad ways the Court has found of blithely dismissing or even scoffing at the basic rights of gay Americans. Drawing on everything from scrawled notes in the justices' personal archives to in-depth interviews with the justices' former clerks, Murdoch and Price provide a fascinating window into how each justice's individual experience and temperament--not to mention the intricate, ever shifting power plays among them--influenced his or her decisions. The most heart-wrenching, haunting portrait is of Justice Lewis Powell, by the 1980s an frail, aging Southern gentleman who had an uncanny knack for hiring gay clerks yet claimed he'd never met a homosexual. He made a valiant but failed effort to understand gays, and ultimately changed his mind at the last minute to cast the damning, deciding vote in Bowers--an about-face he fretted over up until his death. Rehnquist and Scalia clearly emerge here as the homophobic bullies, with Thomas as their silent yes man, O'Connor as spinelessly concerned with voting in the majority, and Ginsburg, Stevens, Souter and sometimes Kennedy as the usual pro-gay "count-on" votes. Undeniably, Brennan, Marshall, and Blackmun (who wrote Bowers's stirring dissent) are portrayed as the heroes on the bench.
But the real heroes here are in the pageant of gay men and lesbians who took their demands for justice to the nation's highest court, many in an era when it was considered absurd to think they had any rights at all in an America that saw them as child molesters, psychopaths, or--at best--pitifully "afflicted with homosexuality." Very few of them were vindicated, and many more lost nearly everything--their jobs, homes, income, privacy, reputation, and sometimes children--for the fight they waged. Their diversely fascinating stories are told here, in a volume whose ultimate triumph is the emotional punch it packs. I kept thinking of Dorothy and her friends petitioning the Wizard: Their firm belief that he would do right by them, their fear and awe before his mysterious majesty, their rage and grief when he welshed on his promise, and, finally, their astonishment to learn that the great and mighty Oz, who had the last say in the highest tribunal in the land, was really just a man, with the same capacity for both ignorance and enlightenment as the rest of us. --Timothy Murphy --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title. See all Editorial Reviews
As a gay attorney who represented numerous clients from 1972 until retirement in 2007, I am familiar with many of the battles fought in state and federal courts to obtain equal... Read morePublished 10 months ago by Buzz Stephens
I must admit that the amazon review above by Timothy Murphy is so on point that I won't attempt to write a general description, except to say that I agree in the main with the... Read morePublished on July 27, 2006 by readersf
I picked up this book, and as an attorney I expected a dry legal analysis, instead I was happy to discover a more lively look at the history of gay rights. Read morePublished on January 9, 2004 by Don Belling
I can't put this book down. Murdoch and Price have done an unebelievable amount of research into the inner workings of the Supreme Court. Read morePublished on June 10, 2002 by Keith Hilzendeger
Courting Justice immediately strikes one as a gay version of the Brethren, Bob Woodward's classic book probing the inner workings of the U.S. Supreme Court. In some respect it is. Read morePublished on February 6, 2002 by Steve