Book Review

1224

COURTING CHANGE: QUEER PARENTS, JUDGES, AND THE TRANSFORMATION OF AMERICAN FAMILY LAW

Kimberly D. Richman | New York University Press,$39.00

The numerous definitions of what constitute parental roles, of what defines a family and the “best interests of the child”– as well as who specifically makes those determinations – strike at the heart of the Catch-22 many LGBT families find themselves in as they navigate the shifting landscape of American family law.

Drawing on countless interviews with lawyers, judges and legal scholars – as well as seemingly every recorded judicial decision in gay and lesbian adoption cases over the last 50 years, “Courting Change” tells of the often-grey area that gay or lesbian parents find themselves in. While the law’s malleability can sew confusion and lead to ever-expanding litigation, Richman, a professor of sociology and legal studies at the University of San Francisco, believes that family law’s vagueness, and its ability to be interpreted and reinterpreted, actually helps gay and lesbian parents who want to transform the law for their benefit.

Although this material is certainly dense (be forewarned: it’s not a beach read), the author manages to explain the majority of it in a matter-of-fact style that most readers will understand. She’s optimistic that fairness and equality will ultimately prevail – with the help of the law – in matters pertaining to gay families. As the legal scholar Peter Goodrich notes in the book’s conclusion, law is a discourse that is “inevitably answerable or responsible, like any other discourse, for its place and role within the ethical, political, and sexual commitments of its times.” Amen to that.

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