Sunday, March 26th, 2023

Courting Justice

Courting Justice

Courting Justice: Gay Men and Lesbians v. the Supreme Court

by Joyce Murdoch and Deb Price

Published by Basic Books

Published 2001
Nonfiction (History, Law)
586 pgs. • find on

Hardcover ISBN: 0465015131
Paperback ISBN:1560231939

ABSTRACT from the jacket cover

Since 1957, a fascinating array of gay men, lesbians and bisexuals have forced the court to consider whether the constitution’s promise of equal protection applies to gay Americans.

Here Joyce Murdoch, a former Washington Post editor, and her partner, celebrated lesbian columnist Deb Price, look at the forces that shaped how the nation’s highest court has rejected to gay pleas for equal rights — from the surprising 1958 victory of a tiny homosexual magazine [ONE] to the 2000 defeat of a gay Eagle Scout.

A triumph of investigative reporting, Courting Justice draws on interviews with justices’ friends, relatives, and more than one hundred former Supreme Court law clerks, as well as on the justices’ private papers and tens of thousands of pages of official Supreme Court documents, to explain the attitudes of a court that once described gay Americans as “afflicted with homosexuality.”

Murdoch and Price take us inside the justices’ private conference rooms to reveal — often for the first time — how the court weighed gay cases. The authors examine not only the decisions the court handed down—some of them devastating blows to the struggle for gay equality — but also in offering intriguing insights into the context of those decisions, the ways the lives of many justices have been touched through their acquaintances with gay and lesbian people: the justice who was close friends with the lesbian dude ranchers next door, how one justice sent a gift to a lesbian couple to celebrate their union and how another justice was a father figure to his troubled gay nephew.

Here, too, are the dramatic stories of the heroes of the gay rights movement — Karen Thompson, who sought custody of her disabled partner, Sharon Kowalski, whose parents refused to recognize their union, and Michael Hardwick, who was arrested for having oral sex in his own bedroom.

We also hear deeply moving stories of gay people who lost promising careers, the love of family members, homes and relationships while the Supreme Court looked away.

Murdoch and Price’s careful research and passionate advocacy provide a riveting and inspiring new perspective on the unfolding of the gay rights movement in America.