By Linda Hirshman
A Supreme Court lawyer and political pundit details the enthralling and groundbreaking story of the gay rights movement, revealing how a dedicated and resourceful minority changed America forever.
When the modern struggle for gay rights erupted – most notably at a bar called Stonewall in Greenwich Village – in the summer of 1969, most religious traditions condemned homosexuality; psychiatric experts labeled people who were attracted to others of the same sex “crazy”; and forty-nine states outlawed sex between people of the same gender. Four decades later, in June 2011, New York legalized gay marriage–the most populous state in the country to do so thus far. The armed services stopped enforcing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, ending a law that had long discriminated against gay and lesbian members of the military. Successful social movements are always extraordinary, but these advances were something of a miracle.
Political columnist Linda Hirshman recounts the long roads that led to these victories, viewing the gay rights movement within the tradition of American freedom as the third great modern social-justice movement, alongside the civil rights movement and the women’s rights movement. Drawing on an abundance of published and archival material, and hundreds of in-depth interviews, Hirshman shows, in this astute political analysis, how the fight for gay rights has changed the American landscape for all citizens–blurring rigid gender lines, altering the shared culture, and broadening our definitions of family.
From the Communist cross-dresser Harry Hay in 1948 to New York’s visionary senator Kirsten Gillibrand in 2010, the story includes dozens of brilliant, idiosyncratic characters. Written in vivid prose, at once emotional and erudite, “Victory” is an utterly vibrant work of reportage and eyewitness accounts, revealing how, in a matter of decades, while facing every social adversary–church, state, and medical establishment–a focused group of activists forged a classic campaign for cultural change that will serve as a model for all future political movements.