“Outlaw Marriages: The Hidden Histories of Fifteen Extraordinary Same-Sex Couples” by Rodger Streitmatter— Defying Cultural Norms and Contributing to Society

Streitmatter, Rodger. “Outlaw Marriages: The Hidden Histories of Fifteen Extraordinary Same-Sex Couples”, Beacon Press, 2012.

Defying Cultural Norms and Contributing to Society

Amos Lassen

While we debate gay marriage today, we should take a look back and see how things have been for a long time. “Outlaw Marriages” gives us the stories of fifteen prominent self-sex couples and the contributions they made to the history of the United States.

“Screen legend Greta Garbo owes much of her success to her partner, Mercedes de Acosta, who taught the actress how to dress and speak like Hollywood royalty. Frank Merlo weaned Tennessee Williams off a diet of drugs and casual sex so the playwright was able to create his Pulitzer Prize-winning drama Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Iconic American poet Walt Whitman dotted his master work, Leaves of Grass, with references to his lover and his muse, Peter Doyle. Robert Rauschenberg urged Jasper Johns not to ignore a bizarre dream he had but instead to act on it and paint the American flag-as he had done in the dream. Frances Clayton gave up tenure at an Ivy League university to help her partner, Audre Lorde, reinvent herself as a pioneering poet who gave voice to women of color around the globe”. And these are just a few of the people we read about in this fascinating book.

“Gay marriage” has existed for a very long time in this country and it did so under the name of same-sex unions. The couples in this book lived in committed unions and were there for each other. Some of these couples were together for as many as 50 years and they loved and supported each other. Some of these unions were not only an improvement on the quality of life for the two people but also for the nation because of the contributions that were made.

The “couples featured are Walt Whitman & Peter Doyle, Martha Carey Thomas & Mamie Gwinn, John Marshall & Ned Warren, Jane Addams & Mary Rozet Smith, Bessie Marbury & Elsie de Wolfe, J. C. Leyendecker & Charles Beach, Gertrude Stein & Alice B. Toklas, Janet Flanner & Solita Solano, Greta Garbo & Mercedes de Acosta, Aaron Copland & Victor Kraft, Tennessee Williams & Frank Merlo, James Baldwin & Lucien Happersberger, Jasper Johns & Robert Rauschenberg, James Ivory & Ismail Merchant, Audre Lorde & Frances Clayton” . Not only is this a pleasure to read, it also teaches.

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