Wednesday, 30 March 2016

REVIEW: "Speak Now: Marriage Equality on Trial" by Kenji Yoshino

Book Review by Sapphire Ng

Speak Now: Marriage Equality on Trial
by Kenji Yoshino
Broadway Books
ISBN: 978-0385348829
Copyright February 2016
Paperback, 400 Pages

Speak Now is an extremely engrossing book. It explores marriage equality in a legal context with such multitudinous facets and intricacies that it will be hard-pressed to find a reader unimpressed by the degree of intellectualism in the book. For readers without a legal background, the book could initially seem like a daunting and dense read especially with the presence of legal jargon. In persevering through the book however, more often than not the reader will find himself or herself acclimatizing to the legal idiom and standing to reap the corresponding intellectual rewards.

This book tells the narrative of a federal lawsuit filed against Proposition 8, the California constitutional amendment that banned same-sex marriage.

It was an absolutely fascinating experience to follow the legal discourse and reasoning through the twelve-day Perry trial. The reader is provided with ample background knowledge of the parties involved in the trial, from Chief Judge Vaughn R. Walker who presided over the case, attorneys David Boies and Ted Olson who served as lead counsel for the plaintiffs, to the general counsel for Proposition 8's proponent, Andrew Pugno.

For the reader passionate in legal analysis, he or she will derive immense cerebral satisfaction in reading the arguments raised in the Perry trial. Examples of issues debated include optimal child rearing, gender-differentiated parenting, deinstitutionalization of marriage, and irresponsible procreation. Microaggressions and humiliations same-sex partners have had to endure in everyday lives were similarly testified. Readers will also come across the argument that the right to marry is a fundamental right.

A particularly interesting dichotomy one could glean from Speak Now would be the way advocates of same-sex marriage view homosexuality to be immutable and marriage to be mutable, against which detractors view homosexuality to be mutable and marriage to be immutable. Readers can possibly find certain arguments more relatable than others, such as one of the central messages Proposition 8 was asserted to convey - that homosexuals are labelled as inferior, unequal and disfavored as compared to the heterosexual male or female, which in turn propagates the stigma surrounding the gay community.

It was riveting to read about the direct and cross examinations held during the trial, and equally enlightening to learn of the set of trial tactics that serve to activate both narrative compassion and statistical compassion. Whilst the plaintiffs had their team of for example immutability expert Gregory Herek, parenting expert Michael Lamb, and history of women, gender, family and marriage expert Nancy Cott, the Prop 8 proponents' primary expert David Blankenhorn was sought for his very specific stance for being one who favored gay rights but who opposed same-sex marriage.

Readers will learn about the plaintiffs' fight for heightened-scrutiny jurisprudence and its rigorous need to prove discrimination, immutability and political powerlessness of the gay community. For the dedicated learner, the book could stimulate his or her critical thinking faculty especially with the myriad of slants brought up for debate throughout the Perry trial. For example, that homophobia preserves the hierarchy of men over women, the investigation of ways same-sex marriages could harm opposite-sex marriages, and whether bans on same-sex marriage should be challenged as sex discrimination or sexual orientation discrimination.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Blogging for Books for this review. 

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