Historian Marc Stein is the author of the new study Sexual Injustice: Supreme Court Decisions from Griswold to Roe (University of North Carolina Press, 2010).
The U.S. Supreme Court of the 1960s and 1970s is typically celebrated by liberals and condemned by conservatives for its rulings on abortion, birth control, and other sexual matters. Stein demonstrates convincingly that both sides have it wrong. Focusing on six major Supreme Court cases, Stein examines more liberal rulings on birth control, abortion, interracial marriage, and obscenity alongside a profoundly conservative ruling on homosexuality in Boutilier.
In the same era in which the Court recognized special marital, reproductive, and heterosexual rights and privileges, it also upheld an immigration statute that classified homosexuals as “psychopathic personalities.” How, then, did Americans come to believe that the Court supported the sexual revolution? Stein shows that a diverse set of influential journalists, judges, and scholars translated the Court’s language about marital and reproductive rights into bold statements about sexual freedom and equality. Creatively researched and persuasively argued, this book not only provides the first in-depth account of Boutilier, one of the Court’s earliest gay rights cases, but may help change the way we think about the Supreme Court and the sexual revolution.
Stein is associate professor of history, women’s studies, and sexuality studies at York University in Toronto. He is author of City of Sisterly and Brotherly Loves: Lesbian and Gay Philadelphia and editor-in-chief of the award-winning Encyclopedia of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender History in America.