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The Engagement

Best Seller
The Engagement by Sasha Issenberg
Paperback $23.00
May 31, 2022 | ISBN 9781984898517

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  • May 31, 2022 | ISBN 9781984898517

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  • Jun 01, 2021 | ISBN 9781524748739

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“A lively, encyclopedic survey of the struggle for marriage equality . . . Issenberg emphasizes an overlapping, conflicting and often serendipitous series of events . . . a complex and chaotic chain reaction that thrust same-sex marriage from the realm of conservative conjecture . . . to the forefront of the American consciousness, to the top of the gay political agenda and, eventually, to the halls of the Supreme Court.” 
Eric Cervini, The New York Times Book Review

“A comprehensive history. . . . Conveys social history as the grand drama it really is, full of intimate details, battling personalities, heated court cases, public persuasion.” 
John Williams, The New York Times

“Part Grisham-esque legal thriller, part Sorkin-esque political drama, and part Maddow-esque historical yarn.”
O, The Oprah Magazine

“A tour-de-force. . . . Engaging, authoritative and impeccably sourced.” 
The Guardian

“Insightful and breezy . . . Tracing the evolution of both public opinion and politics around marriage equality, the work holds a mirror up to how much America has changed in a short period of time and how those in power actually followed the public embrace of same-sex marriage, rather than lead it.”
—Philip Elliot, Time Magazine

“Issenberg is a journalist who digs deep, and this sprawling, authoritative, finely detailed book reflects that.
—Frank Bruni

“Comprehensive . . . From the 1990 Hawaii same-sex marriage license applications through lawyer Mary Bonauto’s work, Issenberg’s chronicle is an important contribution.”
Washington Post
(10 Books to Read in June)

“This meticulously reported work sheds new light on just about every aspect of this fraught history . . . It is sure to become the definitive book on one of the most important issues of our time.”
O. Henry Magazine

“This lively, thorough and fascinating history reconstructs the fight for gay marriage, tracing how an issue that barely registered among queer activists became, in the wake of outspoken opposition from the religious right, a priority.”
The New York Times (weekly roundup)

“Issenberg’s nuanced and insightful reporting brings clarity to this important milestone.” 

“A definitive portrait of a key victory in the battle for LGBTQ rights.”
Publishers Weekly

The Engagement is a sprawlingly rich history of the United States’ most transformative equality movement. Issenberg’s impressively wide-ranging interviews allow him to go beyond the familiar story of trailblazing lawyers to give lesser-known campaign consultants due credit for their critical contributions to bringing about a sea-change in America’s acceptance of gay equality. Likewise, Issenberg’s fair-minded treatment of equality opponents further demonstrates The Engagement will be an enduringly significant work of history.”
—David J. Garrow, author of Liberty and Sexuality: The Right to Privacy and the Making of Roe v. Wade and Rising Star: The Making of Barack Obama

“In this deeply engaging and comprehensively reported work, Sasha Issenberg traces the story of marriage equality from its beginnings as a nearly impossible dream to its current status as an essential right. This engrossing account of social change, political will and human rights arrives at a moment of great urgency. Issenberg’s narrative will inform the efforts of anyone who strives for a more equal country, and touch the heart of anyone who has seen their rights come up for debate.”
Pete Buttigieg, author of Shortest Way Home: One Mayor’s Challenge and a Model for America’s Future

“Sasha Issenberg has produced a sweeping, inside history of the first great civil rights triumph of the new century, masterfully weaving together the stories of the pioneering activists and the political and legal strategies they devised into a book of penetrating reportage and analysis that reads like a thriller.”
—Joshua Green,
author of Devil’s Bargain: Steve Bannon, Donald Trump, and the Nationalist Uprising

“At once political history, movement autopsy, legal chronicle, and fly-on-the-wall account, Sasha Issenberg’s latest is a one of his most thought-provoking books to date. By reckoning with the stories of those who hoped finally to legalize same-sex marriage, as well as those who were determined to delay, or actively to prevent, such a revolution, Issenberg animates one of this nation’s most recent and dramatic civil rights fights as few others have. And, in doing so, he makes clear not only that its origins were most complex, but also why its legacy remains most uncertain.”
—Heather Ann Thompson, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and its Legacy

Table Of Contents

Introduction: A President Decides 3
1. Seeking License 21
2. Only One Man Marching 32
3. A Distinct Civil-Liberties Question 45
4. Rolling the Dice 55
5. Gay Mafia 60
6. Making the Case 63
7. Baehr v. Lewin 69
8. A Chickenskin Moment 78
9. Shoals of Time 84
10. Wardle’s Run 93
11. Dominos at the Barn Door 99
12. A Message from the Presidency 104
13. Apostles 108
14. Hawaii’s Future Today 115
15. Kickoff 124
16. Don & Bob 131
17. The Law Man 141
18. How a Grievance Becomes a Bill 151
19. March On, Washington 161
20. Fights of the Roundtable 168
21. Waiting for a Nightmare 176
22. The Rebrander and the Firebrand 182
23. Smooth Sailing 192
24. Endangered Liaisons 199
25. Two Weeks in May 204
26. Dear Friends 212
27. An Election-Year Baseball Bat 217
28. When the Deal Goes Down 221
29. Midnight Cowboy 231
30. Trial at Honolulu 238
31. Shameless Agitator 247
32. Queer Town Meetings 255
33. Marriage 101 263
34. Anything But the Slam-Dunk Cases 268
35. Baker v. State 273
36. The Remedy 281
37. Scenes from a Civil Union 286
38. Down from the Mountains 295
39. The Next Town Over 301
40. Goodridge 306
41. We’re the Marriage People 315
42. A Sense of Where the Culture Is Headed 324
43. Enemy of the Good 332
44. Marriage Movements 340
45. Wise as Serpents 346
46. Dueling Amendments 356
47. Lawlessness 366
48. Issue One 377
49. When You’re Living Through It 387
50. Paul Revere Rides In 390
51. Speaking for the Silent Majority 401
52. Clear It with Evan 409
53. Organization Man 417
54. Mining the Foundations 422
55. Outgiving 427
56. Clarity of Coalition 432
57. After the Bloodbath 443
58. Punish the Wicked 451
59. Let California Ring 462
60. It Came from San Diego 469
61. Little Kingdoms 473
62. God’s Way of Bringing People Together 478
63. Nassau Street 483
64. To the Ballot 490
65. Amen Brothers 495
66. The Mormon Empire Strikes Back 499
67. Proposition 8 507
68. Whodunit 515
69. Meet in the Middle 521
70. Gathering Storm 527
71. Up Against the Wall 532
72. Roadmap 539
73. For Better or for Worse 546
74. Money Talks in New York 555
75. A Grave Price 566
76. Campaign in a Box 573
77. Land Rush to the Ballot 583
78. Conversation and Inoculation 590
79. Four Ballots 599
PART NINE: ENDGAME (2009–2015)
80. Dooming DOMA 617
81. Dave & Ted’s Excellent Adventure 623
82. Duty to Defend 635
83. Facts of the Matter 643
84. Appealing Stuff 653
85. Inaction Hero 661
86. Leading from Behind 672
87. In the Shadow of Lady Liberty 683
88. Shotgun Wedding 699
89. And Then There Were Nine 706
90. Blinding Times 712
91. When the Dam Breaks 719
92. Once and for All 729
Coda: Back to Hawaii 737
Postscript: Massive Desistance 754
Acknowledgments 763
A Note on Sources 767
Notes 769
Index 871

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