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A brisk but incomplete account of the marriage equality movement
on May 26, 2014
Imagine a book that purports to be about the Grand Canyon, but as you read it you realize, page after page, the book is only a vivid and exhaustive description of the visitors center. You read about the architecture of the visitors center, its history, a discussion of the gift shop's wares and a flattering profile of the current manager. But the book gives only scant and dismissive reference to the Grand Canyon's spectacular age-old landforms just outside the door.
Such a book is "Forcing the Spring," Jo Becker's account of the marriage equality movement. It focuses almost entirely on the Proposition 8 litigation, the Windsor case, and some of the recent political trends and victories favoring same-sex marriage. References to the ACLU, Lambda Legal and like organizations that have pursued a different strategy to secure LGBT marriage rights are mentioned only in passing and in a less than favorable light. The "Fight for Marriage Equality" has been far broader than the cramped scope of this book, its subtitle notwithstanding.
Becker depicts Chad Griffin - the current president of the Human Rights Campaign - as the driving force to secure marriage equality's recent gains. Oddly while Theodore Olson is "Olson" and David Boies is "Boies", Mr. Griffin is "Chad." And so "Chad" is the hero of "Forcing the Spring", making his appearance throughout the book as he glides from strategy session to celebrity fundraiser to political elbow-rubbing to campaign rally to election night vigil to legal same-sex weddings, interspersed with tender moments involving the hero and his marriage equality co-crusaders.
Other book reviews and op-eds have detailed the manifest omissions and inaccuracies concerning the history and personae of the marriage equality movement. This despite the copious endnotes that mostly detail documents and conversations. For example Ms. Becker refers to Fred Phelps' notorious Westboro Baptist Church as from Florida. (It is headquartered near Topeka, Kansas.)
Nonetheless "Forcing the Spring" moves at a breathless pace and pages turn themselves. To readers who relish the drama of the courtroom and legal process, this will be a gripping narrative hard to put down. For entertainment value, "Forcing the Spring" would get five stars. But as an historical account of a significant American civil rights struggle, Becker's book barely makes it out of the visitors center.