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Forcing the Spring: Inside the Fight for Marriage Equality

really liked it 4.00  ·  Rating details ·  297 ratings  ·  64 reviews
A New York Times Notable Book of the Year

A Washington Post Best Book of the Year (Nonfiction)

A Kirkus Best Book of the Year

[A] riveting legal drama, a snapshot in time, when the gay rights movement altered course and public opinion shifted with the speed of a bullet train...Becker's most remarkable accomplishment is to weave a spellbinder of a tale that, despite a finale
Hardcover, 480 pages
Published April 22nd 2014 by Penguin Press
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Bob H
Apr 24, 2014 rated it it was ok
I've read the book through, and can say that if you ignore the conclusory opening and closing chapters -- the flawed premises that the marriage revolution started in 2008 and that this was a decisive victory at the Supreme Court -- it's OK as a courtroom drama. The Proposition 8 Federal trial and appeals takes up most of the book and once the case gets going, her narrative is straightforward enough. She did seem, according to her source notes, to have access to attorneys Ted Olsen and Charles Co ...more
Jun 12, 2014 rated it liked it
Forcing the Spring actually picks up in the second half. I found the opening mean and ungenerous to LGBT activists, many who had been working for years on queer equality. The second section is a blow by blow account of the trial in SF and it is about as interesting as watching a trial, which is to say, paint a bedroom and then watch the paint dry for two weeks while a chemist explains to you the process of paint drying. After the trial though, things pick up and the book traces an interesting tr ...more
Jean Marie Angelo
May 01, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: history
This week another major argument for same sex marriage was brought before the U.S. Supreme Court. We'll know in June how the justices will rule.

I was keenly interested in learning the strategy and background that went into our side winning the two major cases that went to SCOTUS in 2013. For me, my spouse, and my activist friends, that day in June — when we learned that Prop 8 in California and DOMA were stuck down — was exhilarating.

So, back to Forcing the Spring. Jo Becker is a journalist for
May 04, 2014 rated it really liked it
I loved this book. It had a great balance of legal depth and personal drama. As a Californian , I was completely unaware of the DOMA struggle going on in New York while the whole Prop 8 battle went on here. I also was delighted to learn about the significant Republican support same-sex marriage has begun to capture. Well written and easy to read.
Shawn Fettig
Aug 03, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: rogue-activist
Forcing the Spring: Inside the Fight for Marriage Equality - A Review

With Forcing the Spring, Jo Becker writes a tour-de-force that is enhanced by its level of insider information to the ultimate 2013 Supreme Court case Hollingsworth v. Perry. Becker traces the case from its very inception, following the passage of Proposition 8 in California, eliminating the right of same-sex couples to marry by ballot initiative, to the ultimate decision of the Supreme Court that the plaintiffs (supporters of
Rob S
Dec 02, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: history
Marriage equality is one of the larger issues I've always advocated for as a bleeding heart Liberal. Knowing both family members and numerous friends who consider themselves to be either bisexual, gay, or something other than straight certainly brings the issue home to a more personal level. So in other words, I was looking forward to reading Forcing the Spring and I enjoyed it for the most part.

However, my biggest problem with the book is the way it was sold to the reader. It was sold as an ins
Sep 14, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: own, politics, nonfiction
You have to sympathize with the writer, who thought this would be the case to establish national marriage equality. Because it wasn't, it's an anticlimax, through no fault of Becker's. It's no spoiler to say it was in fact a couple of nurses from suburban Detroit whose case made it all the way to SCOTUS, without support from the Hollywood elite, million-dollar lawyers, highly paid political consultants, or PR gurus. Though that case was in full swing by 2013, it doesn't even merit a passing ment ...more
Christian Larsen
Sep 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: lgbt
This was a fascinating inside look into one of the most contentious cases in recent memory. The author followed the plaintiffs throughout the litigation process and conducted interviews with the defendants and judges afterwards. It leans heavily in favor of marriage equality, but so do I! Everyone should read it for both the insider commentary and to examine the arguments for and against marriage equality in the light of court argument. It is a captivating read, but then, what legal history isn' ...more
Michelle Farley
Apr 27, 2014 rated it it was ok
I enjoyed this book on some level, but I found it hard to get through. The reality is the equality movement didn't start in 2008 with Prop 8, and it didn't end in 2013 with the SCOTUS ruling. This an in-depth look at people who worked very hard on one case. ...more
Vince Caparas
Dec 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2020-reads
Forcing the Spring: Inside the Fight for Marriage Equality by Jo Becker

Quick Impression:

This is merely one chapter in the broader story towards marriage equality. A fascinating read, this publication was controversial when it was released for it’s uneven coverage of grassroots and racial contributions to the gay rights movement, and it’s heavily heteronormative lens. Despite these shortcomings, I found it a valuable work of reportage that, read today, highlights that the route to progress is ha
Joseph Stieb
Mar 03, 2021 rated it it was amazing
A book that actually made me think there is some good in this world. Becker takes you inside both the human story of the challenges to and eventual defeat of prop 8 as well as the legal story. The book is a pretty linear narrative that doesn't discuss a ton of gay history, but if you have a little background there it isn't a problem. Overall, it is inspiring and heart-warming, but also highly informative on both how the justice system works and the arguments of both sides.

Two fascinating aspects
Sep 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Even though I knew about the major events that make up this book, even though I knew the ending before I started - this book was more compelling than any other I've read this year.

The fight for marriage equality is one that I am passionate about. I feel that it is the civil rights movement of my lifetime and I have watched at times in awe at how fast things are changing - and at times in abject frustration at some of the setbacks and deep-seeded hate that is still out there.

Jo Becker provides a
Trey Lathe
Mar 03, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: history
I've read half the book. Gave up.

As someone who has spent decades battling for my family's equality, starting with personal struggles and debate with family and friends, battling prop 20 in California, working in Hawaii and California on campaigns, getting 'married' in the 2004 San Francisco weddings (which led to the eventual ruling on prop 8 btw), donating thousands of dollars and hours to organizations (including HRC), marching in uncounted protests, outreach to our Mormon community, even par
Nov 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Originally published at Reading Reality

I know that this is non-fiction, but it reads like a legal thriller. Even though the reader knows how the story ends, the “you are there” style of following the action keeps the reader on the edge of their seats all the same.

In light of the recent Supreme Court ruling (or lack thereof) that legalized same-sex marriage in nine states, and U.S. District Appeals Court decisions the following day legalized the institution in five more, it seemed like a terrific
Sep 22, 2018 rated it liked it
I started strong in this book but kept falling away from it. An issue I had was the sheer number of players and time, so I kept getting lost--who was that/when is it? There are about 40-50 'main players' that you kind of have to know (or at least I did) and the time of the narrative (from about '08 to '14)...well, if there is another edition of this book and the editor happens to be reading, a timeline and 'who's who' would be extremely helpful. Also, this would make a wonderful limited series T ...more
Mar 09, 2020 rated it really liked it
This touched on a lot of details of the trials that I missed the first time around. It also shows how precarious these decisions are. And how even now, so many people think that LGBTQIA+ folx are sexually deviant and immoral, and how our laws are based on “Christian” morality and not on human rights. But given the dark times we now live in, it feels heartwarming and almost healing to remember the good.
May 07, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: own, read-2021
From the 2008 elections to the 2013 Supreme Court rulings striking down DOMA and California's Prop 8, Becker's compelling account traces five years in the fight for marriage equality in the US. Detailed, engaging, and all the sweeter read in the knowledge that the year after the book was published, the Supreme Court (fuckin' finally) paved the way for making same-sex marriages legal across the country. ...more
Matthew Royal
Nov 21, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: audio-books
An interesting inside peek into the litigants of Obergefell v. Hodges. Reinforces my worldview that the path to success is understanding the paths to success and modeling all the possible outcomes, obstacles, and agents on the way, and spending your time on the ones with the greatest chance of making a difference.
Jan 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
Surprisingly engaging
David Shetler
Jan 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
Very compelling read. I was afraid it would be very factual and deeply in the weeds but it was actually a page turner. While I knew the outcome in advance the back story was fasinating.
Jun 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I thought this was a pretty strong book, though it might go into more detail about the topic than many people would want. Becker has provided a comprehensive narrative of the Proposition 8, the initiative in California that made same-sex marriage illegal after it had been approved by the legislature, case.

Vaughn Walker, who was the first judge in the case, was an interesting person. He is a gay man, who decided to recuse himself since it was not uncommon for people from a "protected class" of pe
Katie Kerstiens
Mar 08, 2015 rated it really liked it
Forcing the Spring by Jo Becker follows a group of people who work together to challenge Proposition 8 and DOMA. The book follows the case all the way from the state courts up to the US Supreme Court. Becker got an up close look at just how much went into this case, especially one on a topic that has so much disapproval. The group wasn’t just concerned about the court case, but had to deal with the lash back from the community. This book is truly moving and it is amazing to see the progress of ...more
Apr 20, 2014 rated it really liked it
This book does have a few very serious flaws that should be addressed.
1) It assumes that the civil rights movement for the LGBTQ community started with the Prop 8 court case and the LGBTQ groups prior are portrayed as villains almost. Just not true, the LGBTQ has a long history in their civil rights movement and that history enabled the events of the Prop 8 case to happen. That history should have been better respected.
2) Too much Rob Reiner, ugg.
3) It continues the tradition of placing the LGB
Rebecca Saxon
May 21, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, lgbt
This is an engaging and accessible story of the legal fight to strike down Proposition 8 in California and pave the way for marriage equality in the nation. Becker's access to the key players in the Prop 8 case (including the initial judge, Judge Walker) as well as insights from the opposing counsel creates a fascinating behind-the-scenes account of the case.

I was impressed at how clearly Becker explained legal complexities and provided us with key highlights from the courtrooms.

What becomes a
Matt Fitz
Aug 08, 2015 rated it really liked it
Legal nerd in me wanted to understand the strategic and tactical decision behind the Proposition 8 (marriage equality in California) case that went all the way to the SCOTUS, despite many LGBT activists (e.g., ACLU and Lambda Legal) believing it was strategically premature. One of the compelling aspects of this case was bringing Ted Olson and David Boies (opposing counsel in Bush v Gore) together to take this case. Just as compelling is the fact that Ted Olson is a staunch Republican (founding m ...more
John Mastrantonio
May 29, 2014 rated it really liked it
Great book for anyone wanting to understand the motives of the LGBT community in its fight for marriage equality. The only reason why I didn't give it a full 5 stars is that it was clearly biased on the side of Chad Griffin and the pro-gay marriage alliance of people. As someone with an interest in American history, especially with respect to an event as important to me as a gay man as any other period of my lifetime, I would have preferred a more nuanced and neutral approach to all of the parti ...more
Jun 10, 2014 rated it really liked it
As a future law student, Supreme Court nerd, and a person who is personally supportive of the same-sex marriage movement and followed both the Prop 8 and DOMA cases, I can say that this book was a riveting and fascinating account of the inner workings of these two cases. Becker writes with a fast-paced, easy to read flow, and while some of her legal explanations were so watered down as to seem slightly inaccurate, she did a wonderful job of breaking down the complex law into layman's terms and m ...more
Chris Aylott
Oct 04, 2014 rated it really liked it
There's nothing surprising here, just solid, detailed reporting of Hollingsworth v. Perry and United States v. Windsor. Becker was embedded with the legal team representing Perry, Stier, Katami, and Zarillo, so she was in a great position to chronicle both the legal and political maneuvers and their effects on the people involved.

What stands out is just how pathetic the case against gay marriage really was. Becker did extensive interviews with lawyers and witnesses on the other side and seems s
Goke Akinniranye
Nov 30, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Forcing the Spring was a detailed account of the Supreme Court that lead to the overturn Prop 8 along with the Supreme Court Case which made DOMA unconstitutional. The book was replete with facts, figures, direct quotes, and insider knowledge from the plaintiffs, their lawyers, opposing counsel, the California judge who first declared Prop 8 unconstitutional, as well as others. This book is impressive when it sticks the facts of the case, the logic of court appeals, litigious attacks, etc., but ...more
May 04, 2014 rated it really liked it
It was wonderful to be able to read about the trial that protested Proposition 8. It should have been broadcast to the public, but since it was not--this is the next best thing.

The book read like a great fiction story, but it was not fiction. It is still beyond my understanding why allowing gay people to marry would hurt anyone. We are a country that is supposed to believe in equal rights, but every equal right whether it be for women, black, or the LGBT community is so hard to achieve!

Even tho
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“Olson’s case, he would later say, amounted to “one big Brandeis brief,” a term that refers to twentieth-century litigator Louis Brandeis, who in 1908 pioneered a style of argument that rejected the conservative notion of the law as a static set of truths etched into stone at the time of the nation’s founding. and instead demanded that it respond to changing realities, taking into account not only the framers’ original intent and precedent but new facts that could be gleaned from sociological and scientific study.” 0 likes
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