“Gaylaw” by William N. Eskridge Jr.
(Harvard University Press; 470 pages; $45)

In its landmark ruling in December, the Vermont Supreme Court described same-sex couples’ pursuit of the secular benefits and protections of a marital relationship as a plea “simply and fundamentally for inclusion in the family of State-sanctioned human relations.” The court held that extending those benefits and protections to homosexual unions is nothing more than “a recognition of our common humanity.” For a state’s highest court to view same-sex relationships so benevolently is an astonishing novelty. During much of the 20th century, the machinery of regulatory power in America viewed homosexuality — and the relationships of lesbians and gay men — as deviant, psychotic and criminal.

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