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Resources in LGBTQ History in the United States: 1900 to 2019 (November 2019): The Twenty-First Century

by Lisa N. Johnston

The Twenty-First Century

The rights of LGBTQ people made unprecedented positive gains beginning in the early twenty-first century. John D’Emilio’s collection In a New Century: Essays on Queer History, Politics, and Community Life reaches backward in history to explain how we arrived to the present, emphasizing that these gains can easily be lost. Dale Carpenter’s Flagrant Conduct: The Story of Lawrence v. Texas: How a Bedroom Arrest Decriminalized Gay Americans is an historic account of the 2003 US Supreme Court case that struck down sodomy laws in states that still had them on the books and enforced them. Carpenter is the Earl R. Larson Professor of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Law at the University of Minnesota Law School. In compelling prose, he reveals the history of the complicated case. Those who think they know it might be surprised while reading his impeccable research.

In June 2015, the Supreme Court case Obergefell v. Hodges made marriage equality the law of the land, requiring all states, the District of Columbia, and US territories to perform and recognize same-sex marriage as equal to opposite-sex marriage. There are notable titles that provide a social and legal context for the history of court cases concerning marriage equality.  Jason Pierceson’s Same-Sex Marriage in the United States: The Road to the Supreme Court is a compelling, detailed account of both marriage equality and LGBTQ rights. Spanning more than fifty years, the work provides details of smaller state-level cases as well as DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) and California’s Proposition 8, and how they led to dramatic changes in LGBTQ rights. Awakening: How Gays and Lesbians Brought Marriage Equality to America, by Columbia Law School’s Nathaniel Frank, uses interviews and legal research to trace the history of the concept of marriage equality and the campaign behind its success in the courts. The book stands out in that Frank writes about the philosophical questions and internal arguments in the LGBTQ community between proponents and opponents, thus changing the perceptions and assumptions dominating the media.

Those studying hate crimes might refer to David McConnell’s American Honor Killings: Desire and Rage among Men. It brings the history of violent crimes against gay men into the twenty-first century. McConnell compiles cases using interviews with survivors and prison interviews with perpretrators to illustrate that toxic masculinity results in hate crimes.

International in scope, Andrew Reynolds’s The Children of Harvey Milk: How LGBTQ Politicians Changed the World uses stories of activists and elected officials as examples of how change is made when politicians serve openly. The most recent example is out gay Mayor Pete Buttigieg, currently running to be the 2020 Democratic nominee for president of the United States. In Martin Duberman’s latest book, Has the Gay Movement Failed?, he analyzes the last fifty years of the LGBTQ rights movement from his perspective as a historian of social movements. Duberman’s hope is that the future leaders of the movement will be more collaborative and will concentrate on issues such as economic disparity and less on issues that “normalize” LGBTQ people

Works Cited