Canceled: Book Talk: Wedlocked: The Perils of Marriage Equality: How African Americans and Gays Mistakenly Thought the Right to Marry Would Set Them Free, by Katherine Franke

November 9, 2016

Please note that this book discussion has been canceled (11/14/16).

Please join Katherine Franke ‘98 for a discussion of her book, Wedlocked: The Perils of Marriage Equality: How African Americans and Gays Mistakenly Thought the Right to Marry Would Set Them Free, on Wednesday, November 16, 2016, at 6:10- 7:00 PM, SLB 128. Commentary provided by Inderpal Grewal and Doug NeJaime. Preceded by Debating Law & Religion, with Professors Doug NeJaime and Robin Wilson at  3:10-4:30 PM, SLB 129.

The staggering string of victories by the gay rights movement’s campaign for marriage equality raises questions not only about how gay people have been able to successfully deploy marriage to elevate their social and legal reputation, but also what kind of freedom and equality the ability to marry can mobilize.

Wedlocked turns to history to compare today’s same-sex marriage movement to the experiences of newly emancipated black people in the mid-nineteenth century, when they were able to legally marry for the first time. Maintaining that the transition to greater freedom was both wondrous and perilous for newly emancipated people, Katherine Franke relates stories of former slaves’ involvement with marriage and draws lessons that serve as cautionary tales for today’s marriage rights movements. While “be careful what you wish for” is a prominent theme, they also teach us how the rights-bearing subject is inevitably shaped by the very rights they bear, often in ways that reinforce racialized gender norms and stereotypes. Franke further illuminates how the racialization of same-sex marriage has redounded to the benefit of the gay rights movement while contributing to the ongoing subordination of people of color and the diminishing reproductive rights of women.

Like same-sex couples today, freed African-American men and women experienced a shift in status from outlaws to in-laws, from living outside the law to finding their private lives organized by law and state licensure. Their experiences teach us the potential and the perils of being subject to legal regulation: rights—and specifically the right to marriage—can both burden and set you free.

Katherine Franke is the Sulzbacher Professor of Law and the Director of the Center for Gender and Sexuality Law at Columbia University. She is also Chair of the Board of Directors of the Center for Constitutional Rights.

Inderpal Grewal is Professor of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. She is also Professor in the Ethnicity, Race and Migration Studies Program, and the South Asian Studies Council, and affiliate faculty in the American Studies Program.

Douglas NeJaime is Martin R. Flug Visiting Professor of Law at Yale Law School. He is also a Professor of Law at UCLA School of Law, where he serves as Faculty Director of the Williams Institute. He teaches in the areas of family law, legal ethics, law and sexuality, and constitutional law.

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