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Speak Now: Marriage Equality on Trial Hardcover – April 21, 2015

4.6 out of 5 stars 44 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


A Boston Globe Best Book of 2015
Winner of the 2016 ABA Silver Gavel Award for Books

“A valuable contribution….Above all, Yoshino both illuminates and lauds the trial, the ‘truth-finding mechanism’ that puts claims of social convention, distinctions between groups and academic expertise to the test of the adversarial process.” 

"An astute exegesis of the Perry trial [and] a tenderhearted memoir...Lucid, subtle and illuminating...A friend-of-the-court brief meant for the global court of public opinion."

"Stirring...Yoshino writes elegantly and compellingly about the background and lead-up to the case...A story that's both timely and durable."

“Precision and compassion are frequently opposed, but Kenji Yoshino writes with almost fanatical clarity about the vulnerabilities of the human heart.  His hard-won ability to imbue intellectual conundrums with moral certainty, his meticulous reporting on legal mechanisms and procedures, and his willingness to acknowledge his personal interest in Perry without indulging it to boost his arguments are all signs of his penetrating mind and dignified spirit. His exquisite restraint and quiet eloquence imbue this book, which is as much a triumph of poetry as it is of legal reasoning.”  
ANDREW SOLOMON, author of Far from the Tree
“Kenji Yoshino combines, in a breathtakingly beautiful way, the personal and legal aspects of the battle for marriage equality. The result is a poignant and powerful book that triumphs both as a human drama and a celebration of the judicial process. By the end, I had tears in my eyes.”           
WALTER ISAACSON, author of The Innovators
Speak Now is a beautifully and scrupulously written account of why facts matter, why trials matter, and why courts are well situated to unearth complex truths. It’s also a story of why love matters and how the law – at its best – makes love visible to the rest of us."
DAHLIA LITHWICK, legal correspondent, Slate
Kenji Yoshino’s Speak Now proves anew that marriage is that sacred place where love meets law. This glorious human rights story, elegantly recounted by one whose own life has been transformed, should change forever the global conversation about the real meaning of same-sex marriage.”
—HAROLD HONGJU KOH, Sterling Professor of International Law, Yale Law School
“In this marvelously intricate tale of ‘two civil ceremonies’—a marriage and a trial—Kenji Yoshino offers brilliant insights into the ways a well-run civil trial can serve as an engine of cultural awakening.”
LAURENCE TRIBE, Carl M. Loeb University Professor, Harvard University
“Not only a compelling and deeply felt account of the first federal same-sex marriage trial, Speak Now is a rich courtroom drama that attests to the transformative power of law.” 
LINDA GREENHOUSE, Joseph Goldstein Lecturer in Law, Yale Law School; New York Times contributing writer
“Beautifully crafted…A celebration of the power of the adversarial system, at its best, to distinguish fact from bombast. In Kenji Yoshino Hollingsworth v. Perry has found its ideal chronicler.
ANTHONY APPIAH, author of The Honor Code; Professor of Philosophy and Law, New York University
Speak Now shows how trial courts are uniquely well positioned to evaluate the truth or falsehood of ‘legislative facts’—broad empirical propositions that are often politically contested—in ways that can advance equality and liberty. ‘Let there be a trial,’ Yoshino concludes, and by vividly describing the gay rights trial of the new century, he has created a gripping and memorable constitutional narrative.”
JEFFREY ROSEN, President & CEO, National Constitution Center; Professor of Law, George Washington University Law School
"The beauty and elegance of Yoshino's writing about law at times stops you short. There will likely be no more important trial about same-sex marriage than Hollingsworth v. Perry and there will likely be no more important book about that trial than this one.”
DALE CARPENTER, author of Flagrant Conduct; Earl R. Larson Professor of Civil Rights & Civil Liberties Law, University of Minnesota Law School
“Kenji Yoshino seamlessly weaves together the story of the landmark litigation over same-sex marriage in California, incisive insights about the power of trials, and personal reflections about his own marriage and parenting. The result is a captivating introduction to the issues of fact, law, and meaning surrounding marriage equality.”
MARTHA MINOW, Morgan and Helen Chu Dean and Professor, Harvard Law School
 “Eloquent, lucid, and profoundly moving…Yoshino demonstrates how the careful and respectful procedures of the courtroom can separate fact from prejudice, and perhaps even allow the distilled light of reality to mend passionate social divisions. He has written a compelling tale for our zealous and polarized times.”
—ROBERT POST, Dean and Sol & Lillian Professor of Law, Yale Law School

Speak Now is a book every law student should read…It does for civil litigation and equal protection what Gideon's Trumpet did for criminal adjudication and the right to counsel: marrying a gripping case study with a broader understanding of how law develops.”
PAM KARLAN, Kenneth and Harle Montgomery Professor of Public Interest Law, Stanford Law School
Speak Now is a uniquely thoughtful account of one of the most important legal trials of our generation, from someone who truly understands the movement for equality. Part history lesson, part personal narrative, part analysis—all from a brilliant legal mind.”
RICHARD SOCARIDES, former Senior Adviser to President Bill Clinton
 “A stirring paean to the critical role of the rule of law—and the beauty of reason--in the cause of justice.”
—LINDA HIRSHMAN, author of Victory: The Triumphant Gay Revolution

“Yoshino has long been an astute observer-participant at the intersection of law and LGBT experience…He skillfully weaves his family’s experience fighting for legal recognition with an account of the [Perry] lawsuit from inception to Supreme Court ruling [and] masterfully guides lay readers through the intricate legal landscape…Yoshino’s passionate and forceful prose is, as always, a delight to read.”
—LIBRARY JOURNAL, starred review

“A crisp, shrewd analysis of Hollingsworth v. Perry...Yoshino claims that he was riveted by the 3,000-page trial transcript; his cogent, incisive narrative is equally captivating.”

About the Author

Kenji Yoshino is the Chief Justice Earl Warren Professor of Constitutional Law at New York University School of Law.  A graduate of Yale Law School, where he taught from 1998 to 2008, he is the author of Covering: The Hidden Assault on Our Civil Rights and A Thousand Times More Fair: What Shakespeare's Plays Teach Us About Justice. Yoshino's writing has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times, and the Washington Post. He lives in New York with his husband and two children.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Crown (April 21, 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385348800
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385348805
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.3 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #545,405 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
One of Kenji Yoshino's many gifts is his ability to combine scholarly depth with warmth and accessibility. "Speak Now" is not just a meticulous and thorough account of one of the most significant civil rights trials in American history; it is a moving story, infused with the author's own experience of marriage and parenting. The result is an immensely readable and thoughtful book, with something to offer legal scholars and laypersons alike.

Yoshino does not hide his priors: he is a married gay man with children, and a well-known advocate for marriage equality. This honesty enhances his analysis. As he signals in the introduction: "I speak in this book not only as an expert in constitutional law but also as a human being who has lived it. Just as our life experience may dull our faculties of perception, so too it may sharpen them." This introductory promise is more than fulfilled as Yoshino carefully, and fairly, steps the reader through the history of the marriage equality movement, key players in the Prop 8 litigation, pre-trial machinations on both sides, the trial testimony, and the aftermath in the district court, appeal court, and Supreme Court. He persuasively shows that trials are capable, simultaneously, of transcending idiosyncratic perspectives, and of bringing individual human stories to light.

At trial, when the plaintiffs declared their love for their same-sex partners on the stand, attorney David Boies recalls that the opponents' lawyers could not meet their eyes. Yoshino's book issues a similar challenge to opponents of same-sex marriage: Read this account of the trial, reflect on the arguments, and see if you can still meet the eyes of the people affected by this debate.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Kenji Yoshino, the Chief Justice Earl Warren Professor at NYU (Covering), is a keen analyst of laws and an avowed admirer of trials in general, and, in particular, the twelve-day 2009 federal district court trial of the initiative, California Proposition Eight, which amended the state constitution to limit marriage to instances involving one man and one woman after the California Supreme Court had read the state’s constitution to require allowing same-sex marriage.

Both the Republican governor, Arnold Schwarzanegger, who had twice vetoed legislation to allow same-sex marriage, and the Democratic attorney general (once and future governor Jerry Brown) refused to defend Proposition 8. The campaign of disinformation that led to its passage lacked any basis other than animus, as the complete failure of the witnesses defending the proposition (whom Yoshino refers to as “proponents” not “defendants”) demonstrated first in depositions under oath, then under oath in the trial.

A major contribution of Yoshino’s book is that the expert witnesses who withdrew, having had their credibility and claims shredded in the deposition phase, agreed to talk to him. Though they claimed to have been frightened by the prospect of closed-circuit televising of the hearings to some other courtrooms, it is clear that they would have looked ridiculous had they testified, and likely would not have been accepted as experts (foreshadowing University of Texas rogue sociologist Mark Regenerus in a trial of Michigan’s same-sex marriage ban).
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Format: Kindle Edition
Kenji Yoshino's gift is explaining complex legal concepts as the stories of people's lives, without oversimplifying the issues or losing objectivity. In Speak Now he helps us get to know the different people involved with Hollinsgworth v. Perry, a/k/a the Proposition 8 Case, as human beings, not just characters in a legal drama. He provides enough background so that someone who hasn't followed the case or the issue is brought up to speed, without making it a dense legal brief. For those who are more familiar with the case, we learn more about the people whose names we know, and their stories, most of which did not include a plan to end up before the Supreme Court. Everyone involved becomes three-dimensional, instead of a name in a transcript.

The author discloses his connection to the case and the issue in a very personal way, yet manages to retain his objectivity in discussing the case from the perspectives of all involved. His knowledge of the law, and the legal process, means that we also benefit from his ability to put the case in the context of our legal system, with just enough for the non-lawyer to understand. He manages to avoid crossing over into a legal brief, and in so doing makes this case accessible to the majority of us who will never study the law.

History may show that marriage equality is one of our generations' most significant civil rights issues. Yoshino's book is a reminder of just how unique and valuable a trial in our legal system can be in determining the line between fact and opinion. He brings us inside the courtroom, and is so descriptive I found myself wondering who would play each character in the inevitable movie or mini-series.
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