Speak Now (Review)

Now that marriage equality is a legal right in the United States, it is finally time to take a breath and look back at the long, arduous journey.  What has been called one of the country’s major civil rights trials, Hollingsworth v. Perry, is the subject of Kenji Yoshino’s latest book, Speak Now: Marriage Equality on Trial.

Proposition 8, was the same-sex marriage ban that was approved by Californians in 2008. The highly controversial referendum was disputed at trial and appellate courts, then on to the US Supreme Court where it met it’s final demise.

Yoshino translates the complex, highly technical legalities of the trials and proceedings into a cogent story that the average reader can understand and relate to.  He writes as an expert through his background as professor of constitutional law at New York University. His story is seasoned through his personal life as a gay man who weds his partner in Connecticut in the summer of 2009. His marriage took place nine months after same-sex marriage was legalized in California but then outlawed by California’s Proposition 8.SpeakNow-02

Even though I had only a peripheral, personal interest in Proposition 8, I picked up Speak Now with some trepidation. I half expected to be intimidated by lots of legal jargon. This turned out not to be the case. Yoshino only used legal terms when needed and in context with his narrative.  I was able to understand the progress of the trials through his skillful use of words. The story retains interest partially because the legal proceedings are unpredictable with outcomes that affect millions of people’s intimate lives.

Even though we already know the outcome of the trials and even the final verdict of this year’s blanket legalization of marriage equality, it’s the telling of the struggle that makes a compelling story.

The author gives credit to Proposition 8’s proponents for effective cross examination of opposing witnesses. He also lays bare the reasons that Proposition 8 was doomed from a strictly legal constitutional standpoint. The lead defense counsel, of the marriage ban, weakened his own closing arguments by telling Federal Judge Vaughn Walker that “You don’t have to have evidence” to justify limitation of marriage to one man and one woman.SpeakNow-03

Thanks to Kenji Yoshino, I better understand the anti-minority legal term, “animus”. This is deep-seated social resentment and hostility towards certain minority populations. The US Supreme Court has found that animus is not outright bigotry, but is prejudice as the product of insensitivity and ignorance. The presence of animus in a law may invalidate that law. In the end, animus was clearly present in the wording of Proposition 8.

The story of the legal battle is seasoned with references to Yoshino’s reflections regarding the growth of his new family. He legally marries his husband and begins to raise two children.  The warm vignettes add  welcome, personal touches to the book.

Advocates and students of civil rights, in general, and members of the LGBT community should find much to learn and enjoy in the pages of Speak Now.

{ Speak Now: Marriage Equality on Trial by Kenji Yoshino; 374 pages, published April 2015 by Crown/Penguin-Random House; ISBN: 978-0-385-34880-5 }

1984aThe Blue Jay of Happiness highly recommends this book.

About swabby429

An eclectic guy who likes to observe the world around him and comment about those observations.
This entry was posted in Books, Controversy, History, Politics, religion and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Speak Now (Review)

  1. BAP Blog says:

    Hey there, thanks for the review, it looks good. I just blogged about a curious fact… Alabama was the last state to repeal anti-miscegenation laws. This no-race mixing law was enshrined in their constitution.

  2. BAP Blog says:

    That was 2000

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