Angry debate over gay marriage is sweeping the country, threatening to divide the nation like no other issue since the Vietnam War. Why has marriage suddenly emerged as the most explosive issue in the gay struggle for equality? At times it seems to have come out of nowhere-but in fact it has a history.Drawing upon the unparalleled historical knowledge that established him as the principal author of the influential Historians' Amicus Brief filed in the landmark Supreme Court sodomy case Lawrence v. Texas, George Chauncey shows how the demand for the freedom to marry emerged from a decades-long struggle. He reminds us of the pervasive discrimination faced by lesbians and gay men only a few decades ago, when the federal government fired thousands of gay employees and restaurants were shut down for serving homosexuals. And he shows how the continuing discrimination faced by gay families-in insurance, pensions, and child custody struggles-led them to campaign for the protections of marriage.Chauncey gives us the history of the shifting attitudes of heterosexual Americans toward gays, from the dramatic growth in acceptance to the many campaigns against gay rights that form the background to today's demand for a constitutional amendment. He also connects religious opposition to interracial marriage and desegregation just fifty years ago with opposition to same-sex marriage today. Chauncey illuminates what's at stake for both sides, making this an essential book for gay and straight readers alike.