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America's War on Same-Sex Couples and their Families: And How the Courts Rescued Them, Daniel R. Pinello

Reviewed by David Rayside



Daniel R. Pinello is a distinguished scholar whose past work has incisively argued that litigation has been an important ingredient in the struggle for transformative change in the United States. In this most recent book, he uses sexual diversity as his lens to reenter the long-standing debate over whether gains secured through courts produce anything other than shallow or pyrrhic victories.

This new volume relies heavily on interviews with same-sex couples who live in six of the states where expansive “defense of marriage” (DOMA) measures were approved by referenda between 2000 and 2012. These “super-DOMAs” were designed to prohibit all official recognition of same-sex relationships, going far beyond marriage. Although these measures were largely undone by the U.S. Supreme Court's 2015 decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, Pinella sets out to show how damaging such legal assaults were to the people he talked to while they were in force.

Pinella is at his best when he asks how super-DOMAs were interpreted, in courtrooms and by advocates on either side. Near the end of the volume, in fact, the book's strongest chapter considers in detail the Obergefell decision and lower court rulings preceding it. Here he highlights the irony that famous dissents by Justice Antonin Scalia helped judges, including many appointed by

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