E. Graff

E.J. Graff, the author of What Is Marriage For? The Strange Social History of Our Most Intimate Institution, is a visiting researcher at Brandeis University's Women's Studies Research Center and a contributing editor at the Prospect.

Recent Articles

Marital Blitz

This November, anti-gay-marriage bills will be back on ballots with a vengeance. But this time around, the gay and lesbian activist network is ready to play hardball.

Do you remember the fall 2004 gay-bashing festival? In 13 states, voters agreed to add to their constitutions a phrase like this one: "Marriage is between one man and one woman." The gay-bashing came afterward, when Democrats and liberal pundits declared that greedy gay folks had brought those initiatives on themselves with their foolish pursuit of marriage equality -- and were therefore responsible for John Kerry's loss. Political scientists have since debunked the claim that anti-marriage initiatives brought Kerry down. But here's the bad news: The anti-marriage initiatives are back. This fall, Defense of Marriage Acts (DOMAs), which declare that "marriage is between one man and one woman," and SuperDOMA amendment initiatives, which also ban "marriage-like" recognition of same-sex pairs, will be on the ballot in Alabama, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and Wisconsin. They're also likely to qualify for the ballot in Arizona, California, and Colorado. At the...

Letter from Toronto

It's embarrassing, these days, to be an American among international human rights lawyers. Or at least it was for me at the third triennial meeting of the International Lesbian and Gay Law Association (ILGLAW). After the last such meeting, I reported here on the progress being made on same-sex partnerships around the world . Held this year in Toronto, June's ILGLAW conference included lawyers and fellow travelers not only from Canada, but also from Austria, Australia, Colombia, England, Hong Kong, India, Israel, Italy, the Netherlands, the Philippines, Scotland, South Africa, and Spain. This intimate group of intellectual colleagues have dedicated themselves -- often at the risk of careers, family support, or even their lives -- to protecting lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered folks' rights to live, love, and form families in countries from .au to .za. Every session drove home more vividly what we Americans knew to be true: Among developed nations, the United States is...

Getting Over It

Like many folks in New England, I woke up on Wednesday wishing that my region could secede from the union and become a province of Canada. But now it's time to get over it. The election was close. We didn't lose; John Kerry did. And now we have to figure out how to talk about our moral values -- in a way that will win next time. Let's start by examining that 51 percent to 48 percent victory. That's no mandate. Stop looking at that bloody state-by-state electoral map, which deceptively makes it seem as if the vast American interior voted overwhelmingly against a few states on the margins. It's not so. Look instead at the maps that show voting by population density, or by county, or by electoral weight (all of which appeared in The New York Times ' Thursday print editions). Then you can see how close the election was. The blue states contain almost as many people as the underpopulated interior. And the red states weren't as red as you might believe. Check out the big blue urban ink...

Teaching Tolerance

Congratulations, Mr. President! The progressive lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered (LGBT) community is delighted that you have an opportunity to turn America back on a path to tolerance. Here's what we expect in return: no more, and no less, than what we got from William Jefferson Clinton. What's that? You say that Clinton botched every piece of LGBT–related legislation he touched? True enough. His “don't ask, don't tell” policy did make life worse for lesbians and gay men in the military, increasing the numbers of gay-related discharges. And he did sign into law the nasty 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which officially decreed that the federal marriage algorithm was limited to boy + girl, no substitutions. But until Congress turns blue, we really don't expect you to push much LGBT–related legislation. What we do expect is strong moral leadership. Clinton moved LGBT issues forward by light-years, simply by talking about and treating us as full human beings and valuable American...

See Change

The Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts declared Tuesday that it is just plain unfair to ban two women (or two men) from marrying each other. Listening to the usual suspects launch into their usual outraged sputterings , I thought of my 6-year-old nephew, who has recently begun using the exclamatory phrase "my whole life" to emphasize his strong feelings about various topics. (As in, "That playground has been here my whole life !" Or, "I've lived in Texas my whole life !") Sure, this decision opens a whole new door into civil marriage, wrote the Massachusetts court's chief justice, Margaret Marshall -- but as a former anti-apartheid activist in South Africa, she presumably knows from personal experience that defending traditions because people have done things a certain way their whole lives isn't a very convincing argument. More about hysterical defenses of so-called tradition shortly. First, I want to address the two most common questions I've heard in the last 24 hours: Is this...

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