Book Review: Speak Now – Marriage Equality on Trial

Speak Now

I may not have mentioned this before, but I’m currently in law school. I’m in a four year evening program, because I work during the day, and I’m about to enter my third year of school this fall. Entering law school with little to no idea about the legal process or jargon was a struggle. Reading 10 pages for class could take me up to two hours, because I was constantly stopping to look up Latin words or legal procedures. Things have become a lot easier these days, and I even started – dare I say it? – to read books about famous cases for fun! Most recently, I picked up Speak Now: Marriage Equality on Trial which tells the story of the now famous California Proposition 8 case.

In the wake of the Supreme Court’s most recent decision in Obergefell v. Hodges last month, I thought I should brush up on the legal history of the gay rights movement. This book is still relevant today, even though the Supreme Court has since ruled for same sex marriage in all fifty states.

The book was written by Kenji Yoshino, a legal scholar and Constitutional Law professor at NYU. The book follows the case from the initial strategies and decision to file a lawsuit all the way through the Supreme Court. Yoshino channels two voices, his professor voice and his personal voice. His professor voice does a really excellent job breaking down some of the legal jargon and procedures for those with no legal knowledge. It’s a bit of a delicate balance, because if you’re familiar with the law, a few pages may seem repetitive and redundant. However, if you’re not familiar with the law, a few pages may not be enough to fully explain everything you need to know. I would recommend jotting down any unfamiliar acronyms and procedural terms – it will make the book easier to get through, and you might learn a few new things along the way.

I think the real star of the book, however, is Yoshino’s personal voice. Yoshino is a married gay man who has raised two children with his husband. This case was obviously very personal and important to him. Between the legal maneuvers and witness testimonies, Yoshino writes about how the case impacted him, his family, and his beliefs. He writes about the process of finding a surrogate mother and living in Topeka, Kansas while waiting for the birth of his children. He writes about his own wedding ceremony and what it meant to him to be able to be married. The most surprising part to me was that when Yoshino interviews experts on the “other side” who testified in opposition of same-sex marriage, he only has kind words to say about the people who are literally trying to ruin his life. He does a really excellent job of humanizing both sides of the case and presenting all the facts. Yoshino is a fan of and advocate for civil trials – he sees it as an opportunity to get to the truth of the matter. Junk science and stereotypes do not hold up well under cross-examination, as anyone who watches Law & Order can attest. Throughout the book, Yoshino takes the opportunity to point out why this system works so well, where it could do better, and why it matters. This results is a book that educated me on multiple subjects and reinstated a sense of wonder and belief in the justice system.

***

I would highly recommend this book to people who have any interest in law, same sex marriage, current events, or civil rights.

Additional Reading:

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2 thoughts on “Book Review: Speak Now – Marriage Equality on Trial

  1. Pingback: Books I Read in July | Like Bears to Honey

  2. Pingback: Books I Read in August | Like Bears to Honey

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