E.J. Graff

A Queer History


I’ve been writing about marriage since 1993—two decades now. I expected these decisions, like everyone else. And yet I was still grinning like a fool when, with one fist, the Supreme Court smashed the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA)—the 1996 law that banned the federal government from recognizing my marriage in Massachusetts—and with the other hand waved away the Proposition 8 case like a gnat. In practice, that means same-sex couples will soon marry again in California, the most populous state in the nation. And it means I am married not just in Massachusetts, but also in the United States (although not necessarily in Virginia, Texas, or any other state that bans same-sex marriage) for such exciting purposes as filing federal taxes, Social Security claims, immigration, and insurance.

Enough With the Daddy Wars

AP Images/Melissa Moseley

Last week, in the run-up to Father’s Day, Marc Tracy wrote at The New Republic that we are seeing the beginning of the Daddy Wars. It’s not true. It’s even more a falsehood than the “mommy wars” ever were. But while the title is wrong—and I don’t think it will stick—Tracy did rightly identify a new tenor of discussion that is a very good thing indeed—not just for dads, but for families in general.

Pacifiers and Pink Slips

AP Images/Joel Ryan

Would you lose your job if, for a few months, you had to run to the bathroom more often than your coworkers? Or your doctor told you to carry a water bottle and drink as often as possible? Or if you were told you couldn’t lift more than twenty pounds for a few months?

I Would Desire That You Pay the Ladies

AP Images/Susan Walsh

Fifty years ago today, in 1963, Congress passed the Equal Pay Act. The idea was simple: Men and women doing the same work should earn the same pay. Straightforward enough, right? Change the law, change the world, be home by lunchtime.

A Brief History of Dumb Things Men Have Said

“We’re watching society dissolve around us, Juan, what do you think?”

“Something is going terribly wrong in American society and it’s hurting our children.”

“This is a catastrophic issue.”

You may have heard these outcries last week, if (heaven forfend) you were watching Fox News, or, more likely, reading any of the ladyblogs that snickered about the hysteria coming from the four-dude panel convened by Lou Dobbs. The apocalyptic finding about which they were opining? Here’s The New York Times report on it:

Four in 10 American households with children under age 18 now include a mother who is either the sole or primary earner for her family, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of Census and polling data released Wednesday.

Women supporting their own children?! Say it ain’t so!

The Gay Recruiting Myth Dies a Quiet Death

Flickr/CT Senate Democrats

Unless you live in Connecticut or read the right-leaning press, you probably haven’t heard this story. Two men in Glastonbury, Connecticut, a couple who adopted nine children and lived in a fabulous remote Victorian, are accused of abusing at least two (and maybe more) of their boys. Let me get this on the record: If true, this is nothing less than horrifying. I’ve written enough, here and elsewhere, against the sexual abuse of children that I hope I can leave that reaction as is, for now.

A Few Words about Angelina Jolie's Breasts

AP Photo/Alastair Grant

Angelina Jolie—a woman with some of the world’s most famous breasts—has explained in a thoughtful New York Times op-ed this week why she's had them prophylactically removed and replaced. Jolie’s mother died young, after a decade living with ovarian cancer; when Jolie herself got genetically tested, she learned that she had a BRCA1 genetic mutation that gave her an 87 percent chance of getting breast cancer. To protect her children from losing their mother too young, she opted for surgery, which she describes in some detail.

Free to Work, Free to Marry

AP Photo/Jim Mone

Last month, Rhode Island came over into the marriage equality column. Last week, it was Delaware. Yesterday, it was Minnesota. There’s progress expected in New Jersey, Illinois, and at the Supreme Court. Pick your favorite cliché or metaphor about winning—being on a hot streak, passing the tipping point, bending the arc of history—and feel free to apply.

And yet few Americans are aware that in 29 states, you can still be fired for putting a same-sex partner’s picture on your desk, or rejected for a job because the hiring manager doesn’t like homos. That’s right—it’s perfectly legal in most of the country to fire, refuse to hire, demote, or otherwise discriminate against someone for being gay.

Who's the Next John Kerry?

AP Photo/Harry Hamburg

Yesterday Massachusetts held a primary for the June special election to fill new Secretary of State John Kerry's senate seat. Roughly four people turned out to vote in my district, with a total of 153 voters statewide. Okay, that’s an exaggeration. There were four people in my polling place when I went in to vote, at 5:30 pm—a time when, were it a presidential election, the line would be down the block. As I write this, The Boston Globe is reporting an estimated 10 percent turnout. My guess is that that the number of people who were aware of the fact that the primary was yesterday, compared to the number of Massachusetts residents aware of the first names of both marathon bombers, was roughly 1:100.

Equality's Nor'easter

AP Photo/Steven Senne

At this point, it’s almost a yawn: The last and most Catholic New England State, tiny Rhode Island, population just over one million, passed marriage equality last week. Just nine years after Massachusetts set off moral panic nationwide and triggered the final wave of state constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage, all of New England has now followed the Bay State’s lead. Rhode Island has recognized same-sex marriages performed in other states since 2010; nowhere were you more than an hour’s drive from a state where you could marry—the Ocean State is bordered by Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New York, all equal-marriage states.

The Scouts Ask: Gay or Nay?


Last week, the Boy Scout leadership did something very smart: they released their plans on the question of whether you can be both gay and a Boy Scout—during an overwhelming news week during which almost no one would pay attention. So now let’s give the plan the ridicule it so profoundly deserves. The Scouts are going to propose to the voting members of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) National Council—nearly 1,500 of them, who will meet in Texas the week of May 20—that the organization allow openly gay scouts. But that openness will last only until a Boy Scout is 21. Openly gay adults will still be banned as Scout leaders.

Don't Leave the House

AP Photo/Julio Cortez

At 5:30 a.m., we awakened to the ping of texts from friends around the country asking if we were okay. That’s how we learned that the Arsenal Mall in Watertown—the town a mile away where I lived for 20 years and the mall where we do our house and garden and video-game shopping—is crawling with SWAT teams, snipers, FBI, and that our house is on lockdown. I live now in a pretty busy Cambridge neighborhood, with the sound—from one and a half blocks away—of Fresh Pond Parkway’s steady traffic as the usual background hum. The elementary school across the street is usually buzzing with squealing children. But this morning the only sounds were sirens, helicopters, and spring birdsong.   

Boston Reels

AP Photo/Charles Krupa

It was a chilly morning, but the radio reminded us that this was the perfect weather for the Marathon (here in Boston, there’s only one; the rest are mere imitators). Last year we had a fabulous 80-degree day, but the Marathoners suffered terribly, with record numbers of them suffering from the heat. So I sent them good, hopeful wishes as I took my dog around the pond, my fingers freezing. We all know the Marathon—the start in Hopkinton, the cheering crowds at Heartbreak Hill. Everyone has either run it or gone to watch it at least once in their time here. My wife adores Patriots’ Day, a holiday that includes history and sports, her favorite things. Last year, as a gift, my little brother sent the three of us to the Patriots’ Day Red Sox game; as we left Fenway we all had to hold hand so we didn’t lose our eight-year-old to the wall-to-wall crowds.

Falling Through the Looking Glass


As I sat in the press gallery off to the side of the Supreme Court yesterday morning, waiting for the justices to file in and begin hearing arguments about the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), I had that sickly excited feeling that you get when the roller-coaster car is climbing the first hill. The day before was easier for me: I didn’t want the Court to take Perry, the Prop. 8 case, to begin with. I was relieved when very quickly we all could hear that the justices had no appetite for a broad ruling. But the DOMA case—and here please let me confess that I’m terribly human—the DOMA case is about my marriage. As regular readers will know, I’m married to my wife in Massachusetts, but because DOMA bars the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages performed in the states, I’m not married in the United States. The justices were going to discuss whether to end that split identity. This morning, it was very personal again, as it hasn’t been in awhile.

Asked and Answered

Flickr/Ted Eytan

It’s a strange thing, living on the cusp of social change—miraculous and dizzying. Ten years ago to the day, on March 26, 2003, I sat in the tiny hallway that functions as the Supreme Court’s press gallery, off to the justices’ right, trying to hear the oral arguments in Lawrence v. Texas, the case in which the Supreme Court—years after the rest of the developed world—knocked down the country’s 13 remaining anti-sodomy laws. Yesterday morning, I sat there again to hear the justices consider the constitutionality of California’s ban on same-sex marriage, written into the state constitution by Proposition 8. I’ve spent my adult life writing about LGBT issues; back in the mid-1990s, I was the first lesbian to write broadly in favor of same-sex marriage, and in 1999 I published a book explaining how same-sex couples fit into marriage’s shifting historical definition.