Thursday, May 20, 2021

Professor Eskridge Receives ABA Silver Gavel Award

William N. Eskridge Jr. ’78, John A. Garver Professor of Jurisprudence, has been awarded the American Bar Association’s Silver Gavel Award for Books for his book with co-author Christopher Riano, Marriage Equality: From Outlaws to In-Laws. The ABA announced the award on May 20, 2021.

Marriage Equality
Marriage Equality: From Outlaws to In-Laws

The Silver Gavel Awards have been given annually since 1958 in recognition of exemplary works in the arts and media, in categories including books, radio, television, and documentaries, that facilitate the public’s comprehension of the legal system and law. The awards are the highest honor given by the ABA for this purpose. Winners were chosen by the ABA Gavel Awards Screening Committee from among 130 entries. A virtual event honoring the winners will take place on Tuesday, July 13, 2021, at The National Press Club in Washington, D.C. 

“It is a great honor to receive the Silver Gavel Award, but an even greater honor was to tell the stories of the dozens of LGBTQ+ families who sought marriage rights,” Eskridge said.

Riano is a lecturer in constitutional law and government at Columbia University. Eskridge has spent his career working for LGBTQ+ rights. His primary legal academic interest has been statutory interpretation. During the 1990s, Professor Eskridge represented a gay couple suing for recognition of their same-sex marriage. Since then, he has published a field-establishing casebook and three monographs, filed numerous amicus briefs in key cases before the Supreme Court, and written dozens of law review articles articulating a legal and political framework for proper state treatment of sexual and gender minorities.

Bill EskridgeIn the book, Eskridge and Riano gather more than 500 interviews with famous as well as unheralded marriage equality advocates to provide a complete picture of the movement and its setbacks. Eskridge and Riano dispel the notion that only gay men and lesbians propelled the equal marriage movement forward, writing that straight women, transgender and nonbinary people, and people of color were major voices and leaders in the fight. The first lawsuit in the country seeking same-sex marriage rights, they note, was filed by a transgender person in the early 1970s. And the first federal lawsuit was filed by Donna Burkett and Manonia Evans, a Black couple in Wisconsin.

Marriage Equality: From Outlaws to In-Laws, provides a comprehensive examination of the equal marriage movement — spanning from 1967 until 2017, after the Supreme Court’s landmark decision from 2015 in Obergefell v. Hodges made marriage equality the law of the land.