Frank, Nathaniel. “Awakening: How Gays and Lesbians Brought Marriage Equality to America”, Harvard University Press, 2017.
How Opinions Change
I often find myself staring blankly ahead and thinking about how gay marriage has changed who we are in this country. Before the 1915 Supreme Court decision allowing same-sex couples to marry, there were periods of intense conflict and some of the most divisive of all contests took place within the LGBT community itself. Nathaniel Frank gives us the very dramatic story of how the idea of gay marriage was an unthinkable and undesirable idea for many gays and lesbians. Nonetheless it became a legal and moral right in just fifty years.
Frank begins the story in the 1950s when millions of gays and lesbians were afraid to come out and were certainly not ready to fight for equality. Then a gay rights movement came into being along side of the rising awareness of the equal dignity of same-sex love. A group of LGBTQ lawyers soon began to focus on legal recognition for same-sex couples and this time, marriage was not considered. It took being pushed by a small set of committed lawyers and grassroots activists that established movement groups to create and develop a successful strategy to win marriage in the courts.
Marriage equality proponents first had to win over members of their own LGBT community who were not ready to make marriage a priority and at the same time had to contain the others who has moved ahead with the idea of gay marriage. They also had to fight against antigay opponents and gain and maintain the American center by spreading the simple message that love is love with the idea that this would move the community further towards justice.
Frank traces the dramatic struggles that finally resulted in same-sex couples winning one of the most important rights of citizenship: the right to marry and have their marriage recognized by state and federal governments. This is quite an inspiring read and with our government in the condition that it is now, really need inspiration. It is fascinating to read how every state prohibited homosexual activity in 1961 and then allowed marriage equality for gays and lesbians in 2015. It was something that most of us never dreamed of seeing in our lifetime and I was mesmerized by what I read here. Just as we waited for the SCOTUS decision to come down, I have waited for someone to write the definitive account of how this happened. This is a story of courage, determination, and strategies. Just as details were important during the fight, so are they important now and Frank shares those details with us. His prose is impressive yet easy to read and it is our story.