The same day that Barack Obama was elected the first black president, Californians voted to pass Proposition 8, an initiative that stripped gay and lesbian couples of the right to marry. But then, as Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jo Becker describes in Forcing the Spring — a stunning account of the legal battles stemming from Prop 8 — a discouraged but determined political strategist, Chad Griffin (think an Olivia Pope-style ”fixer”), began plotting to reverse the damage. Over lunch in Beverly Hills with producer Rob Reiner, an unlikely plan took shape that would eventually bring together conservative Ted Olson and liberal David Boies — lawyers who’d fought bitterly against each other in the famous Bush v. Gore case — to take down Prop 8 in the courtroom.
By now, a lot of what happened in the years that followed feels like ancient history: Other states started legalizing same-sex marriage, and on June 26, 2013, the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act. But as Becker shows, none of those breakthroughs came easily. Drawing on five years of unlimited access to Olson and Boies’ team, she has crafted an engrossing narrative filled with details gleaned from fraught backroom conversations and private emails. Though some critics allege that Becker highlights certain key figures at the expense of others, the history she re-creates using material as dry as court records and judges’ written opinions is as taut and suspenseful as a novel. She also zeroes in on human moments, such as Reiner’s habit of smuggling snacks into the courtroom and the tearjerking wedding of plaintiffs Kris Perry and Sandy Stier. Forcing the Spring stands as not just the definitive account of the battle for same-sex marriage rights but a thrilling and compassionate one, too. A
The Opening Line
”This is how a revolution begins. It begins when someone grows tired of idly standing by, waiting for history’s arc to bend toward justice, and instead decides to give it a swift shove.”