Catalogue


Civil wars : a battle for gay marriage /
David Moats.
edition
1st ed.
imprint
Orlando : Harcourt, c2004.
description
xiv, 288 p.
ISBN
015101017X
format(s)
Book
Holdings
More Details
author
imprint
Orlando : Harcourt, c2004.
isbn
015101017X
contents note
"Our common humanity" -- Beginnings -- Freedom -- Family -- The case -- "Think anew" -- "Act anew" -- "A lover's quarrel" -- "What is the harm?".
catalogue key
5081338
A Look Inside
Awards
This item was nominated for the following awards:
Excerpts
Excerpt from Book
CHAPTER ONE OUR COMMON HUMANITY BETH ROBINSON did not expect the call to come that Monday, but at 10:55 A.M. on December 20, 1999, the court clerk was on the line. It could mean only one thing. The Vermont Supreme Court had reached a decision. The struggle for gay marriage had been waged fitfully for nearly thirty years in courtrooms across the country, gaining a short-lived victory eleven years before in Hawaii. But Hawaii eventually reversed course, and no jurisdiction in the country had established that gays and lesbians had a right to marry equal to that of heterosexual couples. Now the Vermont Supreme Court was in a position to lead the way. Robinson had argued the case thirteen months before, urging the court to establish for the first time anywhere in the United States that gay and lesbian couples had the right to marry. For the past year, she and supporters all across the country had been waiting for the outcome. The court customarily released its decisions on Fridays, and for the last six months Robinson had worn specific outfits to work each Friday to be ready for the press conference that would follow an announcement of the ruling. In the spring and fall she had worn an electric blue suit. For the summer she had a black and white outfit. But Friday had passed three days before without a ruling, only a hint: The court had sent out a message that because of the holidays it might release rulings the following week on a day other than Friday. Robinson was a 34-year-old lawyer with one of Vermont's most prestigious firms. She was trim and athletic, with an intense gaze, an incisive intellect, and a devotion to the rigors of the law. She had been working on the freedom-to-marry issue for four years, and she knew that people all across the country who had struggled against the indignities of a second-class status had pinned their hopes on her. She had heard the stories of insults endured and rights denied, and she had drawn inspiration from the commitment of people who were willing to fight for legal recognition of their intimate relationships. Since the dawning of the gay rights movement thirty years before, gays and lesbians had been engaged on numerous fronts to establish protections against harassment and hatred, to secure equal rights, and to live with dignity. Now the issue of gay marriage was at the vanguard of the struggle. The decision Robinson waited for on the telephone in Middlebury could well be a landmark in that struggle. Each of the participants in this political drama had followed a different path to this moment. Some of them were born and raised in Vermont. Others came from as far away as California. Some were gay. Some were straight. Many of them had emerged from the 1960s and 1970s with an idea of Vermont as a community where the individual still mattered. Vermont was, perhaps, an unlikely setting for such a drama. This was not Castro Street or Christopher Street, the neighborhoods in San Francisco and New York where gay America had staged its sometimes flamboyant, sometimes violent, coming out. This was South Pleasant Street, a shady avenue in Middlebury, a picturesque town of 8,000 where Robinson was a partner at Langrock Sperry & Wool. It was a practice that handled all the affairs, grand and small, of a small town in a rural state. Peter Langrock, the founder of the firm, had written a book of tales from his practice that included a story about the disputed ownership of a stuffed fish. The Langrock office was housed in a stately white nineteenth-century house situated between another law practice in another white house and the gray stone Baptist church. A florist's shop, where high school kids bought corsages for their proms, was across the street. Three buildings down, overlooking the green, was the elegant mansion built in 1802 by Gamaliel Painter, the pioneer who was one of Middlebury's founders. During the early decad
First Chapter
CHAPTER ONE

OUR COMMON HUMANITY

BETH ROBINSON did not expect the call to come that Monday, but at 10:55 A.M. on December 20, 1999, the court clerk was on the line. It could mean only one thing. The Vermont Supreme Court had reached a decision.

The struggle for gay marriage had been waged fitfully for nearly thirty years in courtrooms across the country, gaining a short-lived victory eleven years before in Hawaii. But Hawaii eventually reversed course, and no jurisdiction in the country had established that gays and lesbians had a right to marry equal to that of heterosexual couples.

Now the Vermont Supreme Court was in a position to lead the way. Robinson had argued the case thirteen months before, urging the court to establish for the first time anywhere in the United States that gay and lesbian couples had the right to marry. For the past year, she and supporters all across the country had been waiting for the outcome.

The court customarily released its decisions on Fridays, and for the last six months Robinson had worn specific outfits to work each Friday to be ready for the press conference that would follow an announcement of the ruling. In the spring and fall she had worn an electric blue suit. For the summer she had a black and white outfit. But Friday had passed three days before without a ruling, only a hint: The court had sent out a message that because of the holidays it might release rulings the following week on a day other than Friday.

Robinson was a 34-year-old lawyer with one of Vermont's most prestigious firms. She was trim and athletic, with an intense gaze, an incisive intellect, and a devotion to the rigors of the law. She had been working on the freedom-to-marry issue for four years, and she knew that people all across the country who had struggled against the indignities of a second-class status had pinned their hopes on her. She had heard the stories of insults endured and rights denied, and she had drawn inspiration from the commitment of people who were willing to fight for legal recognition of their intimate relationships. Since the dawning of the gay rights movement thirty years before, gays and lesbians had been engaged on numerous fronts to establish protections against harassment and hatred, to secure equal rights, and to live with dignity. Now the issue of gay marriage was at the vanguard of the struggle. The decision Robinson waited for on the telephone in Middlebury could well be a landmark in that struggle.

Each of the participants in this political drama had followed a different path to this moment. Some of them were born and raised in Vermont. Others came from as far away as California. Some were gay. Some were straight. Many of them had emerged from the 1960s and 1970s with an idea of Vermont as a community where the individual still mattered.

Vermont was, perhaps, an unlikely setting for such a drama. This was not Castro Street or Christopher Street, the neighborhoods in San Francisco and New York where gay America had staged its sometimes flamboyant, sometimes violent, coming out. This was South Pleasant Street, a shady avenue in Middlebury, a picturesque town of 8,000 where Robinson was a partner at Langrock Sperry & Wool. It was a practice that handled all the affairs, grand and small, of a small town in a rural state. Peter Langrock, the founder of the firm, had written a book of tales from his practice that included a story about the disputed ownership of a stuffed fish.

The Langrock office was housed in a stately white nineteenth-century house situated between another law practice in another white house and the gray stone Baptist church. A florist's shop, where high school kids bought corsages for their proms, was across the street. Three buildings down, overlooking the green, was the elegant mansion built in 1802 by Gamaliel Painter, the pioneer who was one of Middlebury's founders. During the early decades of the nineteenth century Painter, a signer of Vermont's first constitution, was able to look down from the third-floor monitor-a kind of widow's walk-onto the green, the shops, and mills of the village he had helped to establish on the falls of Otter Creek.

LARRY ABBOTT was the court clerk who had called Robinson that day. He was authorized only to tell Robinson the outcome of the case, in which the Supreme Court was ruling on a lower court finding that the law limiting marriage to heterosexual unions was constitutional.

This is what he read: "The judgment of the superior court upholding the constitutionality of the Vermont marriage statutes under Chapter 1, Article 7 of the Vermont Constitution is reversed."

Robinson felt a surge of elation. She had won. The lower court had been reversed, and excluding gay and lesbian couples from marriage was now unconstitutional.

But Robinson listened with dismay as Abbott continued to read. "The effect of the Court's decision is suspended, and jurisdiction is retained in this Court, to permit the Legislature to consider and enact legislation consistent with the constitutional mandate described within."

Robinson was astounded.

"Larry, what does that mean?"

It was not Abbott's job to tell her what it meant. He told her the ruling would be on the court's Web site at 11 A.M.

To Robinson this was devastating news. It seemed to her like the cruelest defeat. Even so, her mind was already racing ahead. She hung up the phone and broke in on Susan Murray, who was meeting with clients in the adjacent second-floor office. Murray, 41, and Robinson had founded the Vermont Freedom to Marry Task Force four years before, and since then she and Robinson had mapped out a careful legal strategy and had worked assiduously to cultivate grassroots support for their cause.

They had won, Robinson told Murray, but the court had handed the issue to the Legislature. The two lawyers didn't have time to dwell on their joy or their disappointment. Pandemonium broke out at Langrock Sperry & Wool. Months ago Robinson and Murray had made arrangements with the Ramada Inn in South Burlington to use a conference room for a press conference. The whole world would know about this ruling as soon as it appeared on the court's Web site. In the next three hours they had to get up to South Burlington, thirty-five miles away, but they didn't have a clue what they were going to tell the press.

Murray, tall and affable, with flecks of gray in her dark hair, had been at Langrock Sperry & Wool since 1984. She quickly joined Robinson in trying to figure out what to do next. The two staff assistants who were prepared to help them with the press conference were both out with the flu, so the lawyers enlisted other staff members to download a copy of the ruling, get in touch with the Ramada Inn, notify the press, and track down the six plaintiffs.

Murray and Robinson represented one gay and two lesbian couples who had gone to their town and city clerks seeking marriage licenses. The clerks had politely denied all three couples, citing Vermont law and an opinion from the Vermont attorney general's office. The six had sued, and their case had ended up before the Vermont Supreme Court. These six were the public faces of the case, and they needed to be at the press conference.

Robinson and Murray decided the lawyers and clients would have to meet at the firm's Burlington office before the press conference so they could decide what to say about this mystifying decision. In the meantime, Robinson and Murray would have to read the court's ruling. The court had affirmed their clients' right to marry but had suspended its decision. It seemed they had won a victory. But what kind of victory? The news of the decision would soon be on the airwaves nationwide, but the lawyers who had won the case were caught between the joy of victory and the despair of victory deferred.


Copyright 2004 by David Moats

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.

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Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Library Journal on 2004-02-01:
When Lois Farnham and Holly Puterbaugh applied for a marriage license in the small town of Milton, VT, in 1997, little did they expect their symbolic act to become the opening salvo in a national debate now raging over the issue of same-sex marriage. The subsequent lawsuit and the half-measured ruling by the Vermont State Supreme Court culminated in that state's Civil Union legislation enacted in 2000. An editorial writer for Vermont's Rutland Herald, who wrote a series of Pulitzer Prize-winning opinions on the issue, Moats here describes true democracy in action as he recounts the events leading up to the historic legislation. Paralleling the personal accounts of the people involved within his state with highlights of the national gay rights movement, he puts a human face on this divisive issue. He chronicles the struggles and triumphs of the politicians, attorneys, religious leaders, and ordinary citizens involved on both sides of the issue. An unapologetic ally of the right to marry, Moats has nevertheless written a clear and fair-minded account of what may be the most important domestic social issue facing 21st-century America. Recommended for most collections.-Jeff Ingram, Newport P.L., OR (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Appeared in Publishers Weekly on 2003-12-08:
In this gripping piece of journalistic history, Moats chronicles the battle over gay marriage in Vermont, which culminated in 2000 with the first state law allowing gay civil unions. Moats, who won a Pulitzer Prize for his editorials in the Rutland Chronicle supporting the law, brings a balanced perspective and an urgency to the judicial and legislative drama, which registers on a personal scale. His goal is to answer the following question, which he poses in the prologue: "How did such a thing happen in Vermont?" The result is a local history that remains an important contribution to the history of civil rights in the United States. Vermont itself is the hero of this book, and Moats provides a deft and believable account of how this small state-the first in the union to abolish slavery-became fertile ground for a grassroots, antihomophobic political movement. In perhaps the most moving section, Moats lets the citizens of Vermont speak for themselves. On January 25, 2000, the state legislature heard public testimony from their constituents, and Moats simply and elegantly presents some of the comments. One woman, who timidly announces that she is in a "committed, loving relationship" with another woman, relates an anecdote about her son: "Not long ago, my youngest, who's now eleven, would ask me when we, his parents, would be getting married.... He has now been exposed to the fear and hatred of the world around him and no longer asks this question. I want my children to have the respect they deserve, to have parents that are married and can fully provide for them." Despite a slight anti-urban bias (San Francisco and New York, in contrast to Vermont, stage "flamboyant, sometimes violent, coming[s] out"), Moats's account emerges as essential reading for Americans on both sides of the partisan aisle, especially since Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean figures so prominently in the story. (Feb. 2) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Reviews
Review Quotes
"Sparely elegant. It is valuable reading for anyone who wants to understand one of the central issues of our time."
PRAISE FOR DAVID MOATS "David Moats wrote a series of editorials as fine as any published in an American newspaper in many years. Now he brings the same tone and temper to his book: wise, calm, generous, and understanding. Readers will meet an exceptional writer telling a most compelling story."-Donald Graham, chairman of the Washington Post Company "He is taking a Vermont experience and making it into a national story that is worth telling." -Madeleine Kunin, former Vermont governor
"Moasts opens in an epic manner... and reports clearly and fairly from a thoroughly secular perspective."
PRAISE FOR CIVIL WARS "Civil Wars comes at the right moment. With its modesty and moral suasion, it may calm the polarizing national debate to come. Moats succeeds for many of the reasons that the debate succeeded. He tells the story on a human scale."-The New York Times Book Review "Like a nonfiction version of Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird . . . Civil Wars is a page-turner that may have readers so engrossed in its storytelling, they forget the controversial nature of its subject matter." -The Nashville Scene
In this gripping piece of journalistic history, Moats chronicles the battle over gay marriage in Vermont, which culminated in 2000 with the first state law allowing gay civil unions. Moats, who won a Pulitzer Prize for his editorials in the Rutland Chronicle supporting the law, brings a balanced perspective and an urgency to the judicial and legislative drama, which registers on a personal scale. His goal is to answer the following question, which he poses in the prologue: "How did such a thing happen in Vermont?" The result is a local history that remains an important contribution to the history of civil rights in the United States. Vermont itself is the hero of this book, and Moats provides a deft and believable account of how this small state - the first in the union to abolish slavery - became fertile ground for a grassroots, antihomophobic political movement. In perhaps the most moving section, Moats lets the citizens of Vermont speak for themselves. On January 25, 2000, the state legislature heard public testimony from their constituents, and Moats simply and elegantly presents some of the comments. One woman, who timidly announces that she is in a "committed, loving relationship" with another woman, relates an anecdote about her son: "Not long ago, my youngest, who's now eleven, would ask me when we, his parents, would be getting married.... He has now been exposed to the fear and hatred of the world around him and no longer asks this question. I want my children to have the respect they deserve, to have parents that are married and can fully provide for them." Despite a slight anti-urban bias (San Francisco and New York, in contrast to Vermont, stage "flamboyant, sometimes violent, coming[s] out"), Moats's account emerges as essential reading for Americans on both sides of the partisan aisle, especially since Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean figures so prominently in the story.
"CIVIL WARS comes at the right moment. With modesty and moral suasion, it may calm the polarizing national debate."
"Insightful cultural history enlivened by well-rendered characters, sweeping events, and a clearly argued pro-gay marriage agenda."
"A fascinating book."
"A heartening book, and tonic for these politically polarized times."
"A moving account of the battle in Vermont."
"A page-turner that may have readers so engrossed in its storytelling, they forget the controversial nature of its subject matter."
"A thoroughly engaging narrative that is poignant and provocative."
This item was reviewed in:
Kirkus Reviews,
Publishers Weekly, December 2003
Booklist, February 2004
Library Journal, February 2004
New York Times Book Review, February 2004
San Francisco Chronicle, February 2004
Washington Post, April 2004
New York Times Book Review, April 2005
To find out how to look for other reviews, please see our guides to finding book reviews in the Sciences or Social Sciences and Humanities.
Summaries
Unpaid Annotation
In 2000 Vermont became the first state to grant gay and lesbian couples the right to join in civil unions. Moats was in the thick of it, writing a series of balanced, humane editorials that earned a Pulitzer Prize. Now he tells the intimate stories behind the battle and introduces all the key actors in the struggle.
Main Description
In the years since Vermont became the first state to legalize civil unions for gay and lesbian couples, the issue has grown from an item for state legislature agendas to one for national debate. But David Moats tells the intimate story behind the larger public battle. In an account of unstoppable narrative power, he introduces the couples who filed the suit; the lawyers who spent years championing the case; and the one openly gay legislator in Vermont who ensured victory with an impassioned, deeply personal speech delivered to the House at a crucial moment. And in a new afterword, Moats brings the story fully up to date by detailing the latest developments in the gay-marriage debate. Civil Wars is a remarkable drama of democracy at work on a human scale-and a critical guidebook for anyone interested in the struggle yet to come.
Main Description
In the years since Vermont became the first state to legalize civil unions for gay and lesbian couples, the issue has grown from an item for state legislature agendas to one for national debate. But David Moats tells the intimate story behind the larger public battle. In an account of unstoppable narrative power, he introduces the couples who filed the suit; the lawyers who spent years championing the case; and the one openly gay legislator in Vermont who ensured victory with an impassioned, deeply personal speech delivered to the House at a crucial moment. And in a new afterword, Moats brings the story fully up to date by detailing the latest developments in the gay-marriage debate.Civil Wars is a remarkable drama of democracy at work on a human scale-and a critical guidebook for anyone interested in the struggle yet to come.
Main Description
In 2000 Vermont became the first state to grant gay and lesbian couples the right to join in civil unions-a groundbreaking decision that has inspired similar legislation in six states thus far. But it was not an easy victory; the ruling sparked the fiercest political conflict in the state's memory. David Moats was in the thick of it, writing a series of balanced, humane editorials that earned a Pulitzer Prize. Now he tells the intimate stories behind the battle and introduces us to all the key actors in the struggle, including the couples who first filed suit; the lawyers who spent years championing the case; and the only openly gay legislator in Vermont, who ensured victory with an impassioned, deeply personal speech on the House floor at a crucial moment. Civil Wars is a remarkable drama of democracy at work on a human scale.
Table of Contents
Prologue
Our Common Humanity Beginnings Freedom Family
The Case think Anew Act Anew a Lover's Quarrel
What is the Harm?
Acknowledgments
Bibliography
Index
Table of Contents provided by Publisher. All Rights Reserved.

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