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Back to the Future: Uses of History in Newspapers and Judicial Records on Marriage Equality
Unformatted Document Text:  formal benefits on married couples, plus the social legitimation and respect of the label itself. 44 Historians Stephanie Coontz and George Chauncey have suggested that the history of heterosexual marriage makes same-sex couples’ demand for marriage unsurprising—perhaps even “inevitable.” 45 Changing notions of how heterosexual couples organize sexual relations, childrearing, and division of labor within marriage have contributed to the emergence of modern marriage discourse. 46 As Chauncey emphasized, marriage has morphed from polygamous to monogamous, from an informal social custom to an institution regulated by kin, church, and state, and from an economic arrangement between men to a relationship motivated by love and happiness. 47 Marriage Narratives in the Courts. Legal scholars William Eskridge and Jennifer Earl argued in separate studies that “same-sex marriage” was an “oxymoron” until the beginning of the 21 st Century. 48 Earl cited the 1980 case Adams v. Howerton, 49 in which the court refers to centuries of “scriptural and canonical teaching under which a ‘marriage’ between persons of the same sex was unthinkable and, by definition, impossible.” 50 The first legal case that challenged the dominant ideal of heterosexual marriage and in which names were revealed was brought to a Minnesota court in 1971, 51 and it was “nearly laughed out of court.” 52 Two years later, the Kentucky Supreme Court wrote, “In all cases . . . marriage has always been considered as the union of a man and a woman and we have been presented with no authority to the contrary.” 53 Political scientist Brandon Aultman explained that the court essentially nullified the argument for same-sex couples’ marriage by drawing on a traditional definition of marriage as heterosexual, established by centuries of custom. 54 Then in 1993, the Hawaii Supreme Court in Baehr v. Lewin 55 became the first court to declare discriminatory a ban on same-sex couples’ marriages. The decision led to a panic, 56 reflecting a desire to preserve the traditional ideal of heterosexual marriage, and the 1996 adoption of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). 57 The act exempted states from the U.S. Constitution’s “full faith and credit clause,” which historically required states to recognize contracts and licenses (such as driver and marriage licenses) issued by other states. Studies of Same-Sex Couples and Marriage in Newspapers. Cultural historian Rodger 6

Authors: Li, Anqi.
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background image
formal benefits on married couples, plus the social legitimation and respect of the label itself.
 Historians 
Stephanie Coontz and George Chauncey have suggested that the history of heterosexual marriage makes 
same-sex couples’ demand for marriage unsurprising—perhaps even “inevitable.
Changing notions of how heterosexual couples organize sexual relations, childrearing, and 
division of labor within marriage have contributed to the emergence of modern marriage discourse.
 As 
Chauncey emphasized, marriage has morphed from polygamous to monogamous, from an informal social 
custom to an institution regulated by kin, church, and state, and from an economic arrangement between 
men to a relationship motivated by love and happiness.
Marriage Narratives in the Courts.    Legal scholars William Eskridge and Jennifer Earl argued 
in separate studies that “same-sex marriage” was an “oxymoron” until the beginning of the 21
st
 Century.
Earl cited the 1980 case Adams v. Howerton,
 in which the court refers to centuries of “scriptural and 
canonical teaching under which a ‘marriage’ between persons of the same sex was unthinkable and, by 
definition, impossible.
The first legal case that challenged the dominant ideal of heterosexual marriage and in which 
names were revealed was brought to a Minnesota court in 1971,
 and it was “nearly laughed out of 
court.
 Two years later, the Kentucky Supreme Court wrote, “In all cases . . . marriage has always been 
considered as the union of a man and a woman and we have been presented with no authority to the 
contrary.
 Political scientist Brandon Aultman explained that the court essentially nullified the argument 
for same-sex couples’ marriage by drawing on a traditional definition of marriage as heterosexual, 
established by centuries of custom.
 Then in 1993, the Hawaii Supreme Court in Baehr v. Lewin
became the first court to declare discriminatory a ban on same-sex couples’ marriages. The decision led to 
a panic,
 reflecting a desire to preserve the traditional ideal of heterosexual marriage, and the 1996 
adoption of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).
 The act exempted states from the U.S. Constitution’s 
“full faith and credit clause,” which historically required states to recognize contracts and licenses (such 
as driver and marriage licenses) issued by other states.
Studies of Same-Sex Couples and Marriage in Newspapers.   Cultural historian Rodger 
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