Book review: Then Comes Marriage, by Roberta Kaplan with Lisa Dickey

Kaplan Then Comes MarriageKaplan, Roberta with Lisa Dickey. Then Comes Marriage: United States v. Windsor and the Defeat of DOMA. Norton & Co., 2015. $27.95. 336 p. HC. ISBN 9780393248678

Civil rights attorney Kaplan describes the personal and professional paths leading to her pivotal role in the Supreme Court’s 2013 overturn of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). The case began as United States v. Windsor: 80-year-old widow Edie Windsor was forced to pay a huge estate tax when Thea Spyer, her partner of 44 years and legal wife since their 2007 Canadian wedding, died of multiple sclerosis in 2009. With Kaplan’s help, Windsor would challenge that tax obligation even though, in the eyes of DOMA, Windsor and Spyer were “legal strangers.”

While Kaplan’s mantra during the lengthy court case would always be “It’s all about Edie, stupid,” the fight to dismantle DOMA would take on great emotional and intellectual resonance for all involved. Kaplan also intertwines her own story of professional closeted-ness, coming out, eventual marriage, and motherhood.

The case would be complex and multi-faceted, and, for the most part, Kaplan does a fine job in recreating the ebbs and flows of the legal actions and reactions involved, in detailed yet accessible narrative. While her frequent insertion of sometimes lengthy verbatim excerpts from court documents and testimony can seem excessive at times, it never truly detracts from the inspiring story she weaves.
In just the last five years, this nation has witnessed a heretofore unimaginable change in legal and societal attitudes towards LGBT rights and freedoms. Thanks to the dedication of committed advocates like Roberta Kaplan and her colleagues, Edie Windsor and others to come will live their lives in fuller human dignity.

Then Comes Marriage is recommended for all LGBT history and general legal collections. It tells of a triumphant journey, one far too long in the making.

Cathy Ritchie
Acquisitions/Selection Services
Dallas (TX) Public Library

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