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Saturday, May 3, 2014

Jo Becker's gay marriage history mentions 1972 Baker case once

PHOTO: Many gay marriage supporters have been criticizing Jo Becker's new book about the history of gay marriage because it ignores most everything but the work of a few. In fact, the result of a Google search inside the book for the history of gay marriage by Jo Becker, "Forcing the Spring: Inside the Fight for Marriage Equality," Penguin, 2014, p. 59 finds only one mention of the first U.S. Supreme Court case on gay marriage brought in 1972 by law student Jack Baker, and it is only because an anti-gay marriage attorney incorrectly cited it as meaning the U.S. Supreme Court had already definitively decided that states could refuse to grant gay marriage licenses. The book fails to note that the 1972 U.S. Supreme Court decision on gay marriage was brought by the University of Minnesota law student Jack Baker and he is still legally married to Michael McConnell because no court has ever ordered their legally obtained marriage license revoked, although the court decision left it up to state laws, which did not explicitly forbid same-sex marriages at the time. Baker's marriage is the first known legally documented "gay marriage." It is a shame that Jo Becker and others seem to be ignoring this fact, but perhaps it is due to the fact that the founder of the national Human Rights Campaign Steve Endean, who was a gay activist at the same time as Baker in Minnesota, was anti-gay marriage and along with other national gay rights leaders viciously criticized Baker's activism as being counterproductive to their agenda of sexual freedom, repealing sodomy laws, and passing anti-discrimination laws.

"[anti-gay marriage attorney] Cooper had begged Judge Walker to throw out Olsen's lawsuit, arguing the Supreme Court had already had the final say on same-sex marriage when in 1972 it declined to review a lower court's finding that Minnesota could rightfully deny gay couples marriage licenses in a [U.S. Supreme Court Case] called Baker V. Nelson. Instead, Walker set a fast-track schedule that had Cooper scrambling to find experts willing to testify at a three-week trial set to begin on Jan. 11, 2010, only months away."

(Quoted from Jo Becker, "Forcing the Spring: Inside the Fight for Marriage Equality," Penguin, 2014, p. 59)

The self-described gay conservative blogger and gay marriage activist Andrew Sullivan is one of those grumbling about Jo Becker's book (See Andrew Sullivan, "Jo Becker's Troubling Travesty Of Gay History," posted Apr. 16, 2014), perhaps because he became famous a decade ago by making the conservative argument for gay marriage, which led him to publishing a book and later paperback: Andrew SullicanAndrew Sullivan, "Same-Sex Marriage: Pro and Con," Random House, 2009. Sullivan says, "The intellectual foundation of the movement is also non-existent in Becker's book - before, wait for it!, Ken Mehlman and Ted Olson brought Republican credibility to the movement. Yes, that's her claim. My own work - penning the first cover-story on the conservative case for marriage equality in 1989, a subsequent landmark re-imagining of the gay rights movement in 1993, and a best-selling book, Virtually Normal in 1995 - is entirely omitted from the book, along with the critical contributions from other conservatives and libertarians, . . More staggeringly, the critical, indispensable role of Evan Wolfson in pioneering this cause is actually treated with active contempt in the book."

Being blind and unable to read books not available in a computer digital accessible form (without copy protection) I have been unable to actually read the book yet, but hope to have a friendly grad student read it to me. I will reserve comment, but here is what others are saying about the book on the history of gay marriage by Jo Becker, "Forcing the Spring: Inside the Fight for Marriage Equality," Penguin, 2014, p. 59:

  • Michelangelo Signorile, "The Worst Problem With Jo Becker's Book on 'The Fight for Marriage Equality,'" posted Apr. 21, 2014 -- a liberal contemporary of Andrew Sullivan, said, "Andrew Sullivan took the first shot on those omissions. I completely agree with him that the book is 'access journalism' by a reporter who embedded herself with insiders in return for telling the story they wanted to be told, though Sullivan, as usual, engages in his own revisionism -- a fantasy in which he and a few other gay conservatives were the only writers spearheading the marriage movement."
  • "Jo Becker's 'Forcing the Spring: Inside the Fight for Marriage Equality,'" posted Apr. 27, 2014 - a blog post by the gay legal scholar Arthur Leonard, who has written a book explaining gay law to laymen. Leonard said, "Jo Becker's book about the Proposition 8 lawsuit that restored same-sex marriage to California was released this week to near-unanimous condemnation from gay bloggers and critics. I am providing a partial dissent here, having just finished reading the book. I think at least some of the criticism misses the mark, because it faults the book for not being the book that the bloggers and critics wanted. Part of the fault belongs with Becker and her publisher for the way the book was titled, introduced and promoted. The title suggests that the book is an inside look at the struggle for marriage equality, an effort stretching back several decades and ongoing as I write this, when actually it is nothing of the sort and not really intended as such by the author. Instead, this book is a journalist's account of the lawsuit conceived initially in 2008 by Chad Griffin, then a Los Angeles-based publicist and media consultant and now the Executive Director of Human Rights Campaign, intended to reverse the verdict of California voters and get Proposition 8, an anti-same-sex-marriage constitutional amendment, quashed while achieving marriage equality nationwide through a Supreme Court ruling."
  • Duncan Osborne, "A Contested Account of the Marriage Spring," Apr. 30, 104 says, "Beginning in 2009, Becker enjoyed extraordinary access to the two couples who were the plaintiffs in the case, their attorneys David Boies and Ted Olson, and Chad Griffin and other AFER staff, with the sole restriction being that she could not report what she observed until after the proceedings were done. Becker sought, but was not given, similar access to Charles Cooper, the attorney who represented the pro-Prop 8 side, and his colleagues and clients."
  • Michael Petrelis, "Who Got More Ford Fdtn Money, NYT's Jo Becker or Evan Wolfson?," posted April 29, 2014 - the famous San Francisco AIDS activist and long-term survivor of HIV Mike Petrelis said, "It's stirred up a few hornets' nests of controversy from many LGBT writers and advocates about her very narrow focus on Chad Griffin, David Boies and Ted Olson, and various omissions and distortions about the long fight for gay marriages in America. . . So Wolfson received more money from the foundation than Becker and I sure would love to be the fly on the wall if they are ever brought together at the foundation to discuss her book and his advocacy."
  • George T. Nicola, Gay & Lesbian Archives of the Pacific Northwest (GLAPN), Special to PQ Monthly, "A brief history of Oregon's freedom to marry movement," posted Apr. 17, 2014 - Nicola said, "I came out in 1970 through the Portland Gay Liberation Front (GLF), Oregon's first politically-oriented LGBTQ organization. At that time, we were so demonized that we were largely in survival mode. Before a criminal code revision became effective in 1972, almost any homosexual conduct was a crime. Our major goals in the early 1970s were to eliminate anti-gay bigotry and job discrimination, and to help those whose self-esteems were devastated by homophobia. But even then, things were happening in Portland that created families headed by same-sex couples. Pioneering lesbian attorney Cindy Cumfer recollects details of Portland's primarily lesbian "women's community" that congealed starting in 1970: 'These women began creating some of the first lesbian families with children from heterosexual unions, donor insemination, or in later years formal adoption. It was definitely a genesis of the modern gay family/gay marriage movement.' As time went on, many in our community sought to share in a formal structure that sealed their commitments and aided their need for mutual care. Portland GLF cofounder John Wilkinson later moved to Seattle where in 1995, he and his partner Dave Davenport cofounded Washington State's marriage equality movement. That goal was successful in late 2012 and they married soon after. . . In 1991, five lesbian couples filed for marriage licenses with Multnomah County. Their requests were denied. . . In early 2004, Multnomah County began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. . . Oregon United for Marriage is holding onto their initiative signatures, pending the outcome of the court decision."
  • Jeff, Mapes, "Will Oregon Same-Sex Marriage be a Slam Dunk?" Sunday Oregonian, April 20, 2014, p. A1, A12 posted online Apr. 17, 2014 as "Gay marriage: Openly gay judge, Michael McShane, in spotlight overseeing Oregon case"
  • Editorial Board, "Oregon’s unconstitutional marriage ban case hits NOM snag," Barometer Apr. 28, 2014, p. 7

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