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From the Closet to the Altar: It has statistics and I like those things

And as the sun sets on yet another year (you heard me), we take a moment to reflect. Only I've already done that, so let's talk about From the Closet to the Altar, because I have a lot of shit to say about it, and I'm nowhere near done reading it.

This is an ARC I got from NetGalley (they are fabulous people) that was published in October about the history/current state of gay marriage in America. The danger of writing something like this is, obviously, that your information's going to be outdated almost immediately. Since it was written, Obama came out in support of gay marriage; it passed by a popular vote for the first time; a constitutional amendment to ban it was voted down for the first time -- all in a single election (thank you, Washington, Maryland, Maine and Minnesota); and the Supreme Court has decided to hear challenges to DOMA. Illinois (repreSENT) is saying their lame duck session is going to pass gay marriage in the next week, and Delaware, Hawaii, New Jersey, Minnesota and Rhode Island have legislators seriously pushing for it in 2013.

So there's a lot going on.

What this book does (as of the first half) is give a history of gay rights in America, and then it focuses on gay marriage alone when it gets to the '90s. In case you all didn't know, what made everyone lose their shit and start legislating against this left and right is that Hawaii seemed POISED to pass it around 1995, and people were saying they would fly to Hawaii, get married, and their state would have to recognize the marriage since it wasn't specifically banned. Enter all the constitutional amendments defining marriage, etc etc, plus DOMA (which was pushed in an election year).

I've watched documentaries on this topic, and I thought I had a decent grasp on it, but the information given in this is astounding.

To give you an idea of where the country was back in the '60s, Connecticut had a law in 1965 that criminalized "a married couple's use of contraceptives in the privacy of their own home." Yeah. In the 1970s, "the trial judge...told one of the female plaintiffs that it offended the court for her to appear in a pantsuit, and he ordered her to go home and change into a dress if she wanted to attend the trial." Even the ACLU didn't formally endorse gay marriage until 1986. In 1975 in California, there was a state senate deadlock over whether to decriminalize "same-sex sodomy between consenting adults." A deadlock. 37 years ago. In the late 1970s, 72% of Americans thought that "homosexual relations were always wrong." In 1991 (probably due to the AIDS crisis), 75% of Americans thought it was morally wrong.

I'm in danger of falling down the statistics hole, but it's fascinating how quickly public opinion has turned on this subject. In 1990, support for gay marriage was between 11 and 23%. The Gallup poll from November of this year shows 53% in favor.

This book could be seen as preaching to the choir, but it doesn't really preach. He lays out a history, says what the arguments are on either side, and ends with a chapter that could be seen as partisan but really just makes sense, called The Inevitability of Gay Marriage. I listen to Christian conservatives on this and get emails from the Family Research Council who both absolutely deny that this is inevitable, but: "Before 2009, the annual rate of increase in support for gay marriage was about 1.5 percentage points, but since then it has been closer to 4 percentage points....the percentage of senior citizens supporting gay marriage has increased by 15 percentage points over the last five years."

If we look at national, state and pretty much everywhere trends, it's going to happen. And if you're interested at all in how we got to this point, I'd say read this book.


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