Author and journalist Sasha Issenberg discusses The Engagement: America’s Quarter-Century Struggle Over Same-Sex Marriage. On June 26, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that state bans on gay marriage were unconstitutional, making same-sex unions legal across the United States. But the road to that momentous decision was much longer than many know.
It is a story that begins in Hawaii in 1990, when a rivalry among local activists triggered a sequence of events that forced the state to justify excluding gay couples from marriage. In the White House, one president signed the Defense of Marriage Act, which elevated the matter to a national issue, and his successor tried to write it into the Constitution. Over twenty-five years, the debate played out across the country, from the first legal same-sex weddings in Massachusetts to the epic face-off over California’s Proposition 8 and, finally, to the landmark Supreme Court decisions of United States v. Windsor and Obergefell v. Hodges.
This richly detailed narrative follows the coast-to-coast conflict through courtrooms and war rooms, bedrooms and boardrooms, to shed light on every aspect of a political and legal controversy that divided Americans like no other.
Sasha Issenberg is the author of three previous books, on topics ranging from the global sushi business to medical tourism and the science of political campaigns. He covered the 2008 election as a national political reporter in the Washington bureau of The Boston Globe, the 2012 election for Slate, the 2016 election for Bloomberg Politics and Businessweek, and 2020 for The Recount. He is the Washington correspondent for Monocle, and has also written for New York magazine, The New York Times Magazine, and George, where he served as a contributing editor. He teaches in the political science department at UCLA.