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No national gay-rights organization would support litigation considered hopeless—but in 1993, the state supreme court unexpectedly ruled that excluding same-sex couples from marriage was presumptively unconstitutional.
The case was remanded for a trial, at which the government had the opportunity to show a compelling justification for banning gay marriage.
Most sex radicals objected to traditional marriage’s insistence on monogamy; for them, gay liberation meant sexual liberation.
Only in the late 1980s did activists begin to pursue legal recognition of their relationships—and even gay marriage.
The federal government would not hire people who were openly gay or permit them to serve in the military. Only a handful of gay-rights organizations existed, and their membership was sparse.
Most Americans would have considered the idea of same-sex marriage facetious.
In addition, the many gay and lesbian baby boomers who were becoming parents sought legal recognition of their families.
Still, as late as 1990, roughly 75 percent of Americans deemed homosexual sex immoral, only 29 percent supported gay adoptions, and only 10 percent to 20 percent backed same-sex marriage.
At that time, no American state had enacted anything like civil unions.Today, opinion polls consistently show a majority of Americans endorsing such marriages; among those aged 18 to 29, support is as high as 70 percent.President Barack Obama has embraced marriage equality.Next week, the Supreme Court will hear a pair of cases involving same-sex marriage.Harvard Law School Professor Michael Klarman has written a legal history of gay marriage, “From the Closet to the Altar: Courts, Backlash and the Struggle for Same Sex Marriage.” In the March-April 2013 issue of Harvard Magazine, which appears below, Klarman published an article on “How Same-Sex Marriage Came to Be.” His scholarship was also profiled in the Fall 2012 issue of the Harvard Law Bulletin in an article titled “The Courts and Public Opinion.” Fifty years ago, every state criminalized homosexual sex, and even the American Civil Liberties Union did not object.