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Preview: Adam Liptak (& others) on the same-sex marriage cases

Liptak bookBrevity is one mark of a good writer; accuracy is another.  By that measure, Adam Liptak’s To Have and Uphold: The Supreme Court and the Battle for Same-Sex Marriage (Byliner Inc., July 9, 2013) is a work worthy of a good writer – in this case, the Supreme Court correspondent for The New York Times.

This engaging little e-book (available on Amazon, iBookstore and Kobobooks) comes on the heels of our own online symposium, though its main drift leans toward a popular audience. Even so, Adam Liptak has crafted a little gem that one could read in less time than it took to argue this Term’s two same-sex marriage cases. The e-book is so accessible and informative that after reading it one could converse on the topic in erudite circles. Public speakers take note!

To Have and Uphold is offered up as nine parts (or mini-chapters) and is presented as a  narrative of the Defense of Marriage Act and Proposition 8 cases, albeit with a dollop of analytical panache.  Like Anthony Lewis and Linda Greenhouse before him, Liptak knows his law, the members of the Court, and the select group of lawyers who argue before it.

At times, there are traces of a “you were there” feel about his narrative, while at other times he profiles the lawyers (for example, Theodore Olson, David Boies, Donald Verrilli, Paul Clement, and Charles Cooper) as they develop their respective litigation stratagems.  At yet other times, Liptak points to snapshots of some of the legal history behind the movement for same-sex marriage (e.g., cases such the California Supreme Court’s 1947 opinion in Perez v. Sharp and the Supreme Court’s 1967 opinion in Loving v. Virginia).

Readers are also alerted to the important role played by state judges (such as Margaret Marshall, as the Chief Justice of the highest court in Massachusetts) and state lawmakers (for example, in Vermont and Washington). And we are likewise reminded of the role played by non-lawyers (such as Rob Reiner, the actor and director who was the “brainchild” behind the challenge to Proposition 8).

Whether the issue is President Obama’s evolving stance on same-sex marriage (from states’ rights to national rights), or the uninhibited and ongoing constitutional exchange between Justices Anthony Kennedy and Antonin Scalia, Liptak’s little tract takes us back in time to remember what we might otherwise forget. Compact and timely, critical and balanced, this instructive e-book taps into electronic technology (sans hyperlinks) to deliver an all-in-one narrative within a fortnight of when the opinions in the same-sex marriage cases were released.

In these digital times it is impossible for ink-and-paper print works to compete with their electronic counterparts, at least in terms of release dates. That said, the following six books, among others, are slated to come out with more extended and varied treatments of the topic:

  • Tam Sanger and Yvette Taylor, Lawfully Wedded Husband: How My Gay Marriage Will Save the American Family (U. Wisconsin Press, Sept., 2013)
  • Scot Peterson & Iain McLean, Legally Married: The Politics of Marriage across Time, the Atlantic and Gender (Edinburgh U. Press Oct., 2013)
  • Katrina Kimport, Queering Marriage: Challenging Family Formation in the United States (Rutgers U. Press, Nov., 2013)
  • Leigh Moscowitz, The Battle over Marriage: Gay Rights Activism through the Media (U. Illinois Press, Nov., 2013)
  • Kimberly D. Richman, License to Wed: What Legal Marriage Means to Same-Sex Couples (N.Y.U. Press, Dec., 2013)
  • Jo Becker, Forcing the Spring: Inside the Fight for Marriage Equality (Penguin Press, April, 2014)

Until those books or scholarly articles arrive, Adam Liptak’s To Have and Uphold will be the “go to” work. It may well remain so until the Supreme Court revisits the subject, which might produce yet another digital work by Liptak.


Recommended Citation: Ron Collins, Preview: Adam Liptak (& others) on the same-sex marriage cases, SCOTUSblog (Jul. 8, 2013, 2:11 PM),