- February 2000
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The past year has brought us several enlightening and educational books on the subject of same-sex partnerships, from a legal, sociological and financial perspectives. The following are summaries of six books which I have found to be particularly useful.
William Eskridge is one of our top scholars, teaching at Yale Law School and writing on a wide range of issues affecting lesbians and gay men. His most recent book, Gaylaw: Challenging the Apartheid of the Closet, (Harvard University Press 1999) is a comprehensive historical survey of the legal structures which have regulated homosexual life in the United States. He thoroughly analyzes the regulations which controlled closeted life in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, involving drag, gay culture and the coming out process. The second section covers the sodomy and first amendment issues, and the third section reviews issues of sexual consent and family and religion. The book is truly broad in scope and detailed in analysis, and serves as a valuable resource for historians, lawyers and serious legal activists.
Two recent books provide useful tips on financial planning for same-sex couples. Harold Lustig's Four Steps to Financial Security for Lesbian & Gay Couples (Fawcett 1999) emphasizes the need for financial planning, especially for couples who lack the tax and benefits protections generally available to straight couples. Lustig emphasizes the need to build your asset base using life and disability insurance as part of your "protection plan" and he encourages couples to avoid unnecessary capital gains and estate taxes through creative and thoughtful planning. While much of the book offers advice useful to anyone or any couple, Lustig's concerns and care for lesbian and gay couples makes this book especially useful.
A more global survey of financial concerns can be found in Peter Berkery's Gay Finances in a Straight World, McMillan/JK Lasser 1998). As with most such books, the basic advice is applicable to straight and gay couples, but Berkery's narratives and examples all emphasize our communities' perspectives. Berkery is extremely instructive for the beginning financial planner, by layout the role of setting goals, building a budget, saving for basic needs, and developing an investment plan. This book also offers a solid survey of the estate and disability tools, including wills, insurance, and incapacity planning documents.
My three favorite non-technical books of the year are those which deal creatively and thoughtfully with the real life nature of same-sex coupledness and the social and political issues of the marriage battle. E.J. Graff's What is Marriage For? (Beacon 1999) is fascinating, with historical summaries of the role of marriage in the overlapping realms of money, sex, and baby-making, as well as the broader issues of kin, social order, and romantic motivations. Graff has an excellent ability to condense centuries of social history into readable and thought-provoking chapters, and she skillfully explains the deeper meaning and context of the marriage debate. The injustice of denying marriage to same-sex couples is a strong undercurrent throughout the book, but it is handled in an especially persuasive and deeply philosophical manner.
Gretchen Stiers From This Day Forward: Commitment, Marriage and Family in Lesbian & Gay Relationships (St. Martin's 1999) offers a different approach to defining and describing our lives. Stiers has done a thorough sociological study of same-sex couples, asking them to describe their relationships in terms of labels, rituals, and motivations. The book summarizes the results of Stiers' study, and its a fascinating statistical look at how couples today view their own relationships and their place in society.
Finally, Christopher Carrington has gone where few scholars have dared to tread: the world of housework and domestic chores. In his fascinating book No Place Like Home: Relationships & family Life Among Lesbians & Gay Men (Univ. Chicago 1999), Carrington reports on his statistical study on the domestic arrangements of same-sex couples. Carrington is interested to learn how couples divide up chores in the absence of gender differences, and he focuses his attention on matters such as food preparation and housecleaning. His work has a lot to teach about the de-valuation of domestic chores, the importance of family and emotional burdens in gay couples, and the myths of egalitarianism in our community.
For the full
text of the recent Vermont decision on gay marriage, go to:
For those wanting to do further research in these and other areas of interest, check out these valuable legal resources on the internet:
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