The Personal Stories Behind Five Landmark LGBT Rights Decisions Are Told in New Book by Rutgers–Newark Law Professor Carlos Ball

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NEWARK, NJ – Court decisions do little to change social attitudes and are dependent on the other two branches of government to apply and enforce their rulings. But, as the civil rights and women’s rights movements demonstrated, the struggle by minority groups for equal rights and opportunity often gains its earliest traction in the courts. For lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people, gay rights litigation has not only won expanded protections but has given their demand for equal citizenship a visibility that was unimaginable 30 years ago.

In From the Closet to the Courtroom: Five LGBT Lawsuits That Have Changed Our Nation (Beacon Press, 2010), Carlos A. Ball, Professor of Law at Rutgers School of Law–Newark, explores the lawsuits that have transformed the country’s treatment and understanding of LGBT people in fundamental ways. He traces the stories of the litigants and their lawyers from their communities to the courtroom, while weaving in the cases’ socio-historical context and analyzing the legal and political impacts of each judicial decision. “Ball,” says Publishers Weekly, “approaches his subject with vigor and sensitivity and makes a poignant plea for justice.”

Describing From the Closet to the Courtroom as a “uniquely illuminating account of gay rights litigation,” Kenji Yoshino, Chief Justice Earl Warren Professor of Constitutional Law at NYU School of Law, writes that Carlos Ball “is a balladeer of the hitherto unsung heroes who litigated the major gay rights cases as well as a legal expert who is instinctively alert to law’s reasons and contingencies. Perhaps only Ball could have given us a book on this topic that so delights and instructs.” Nancy D. Polikoff, author of Beyond (Straight and Gay) Marriage, says: “Carlos Ball deftly and accessibly tells the rich and fascinating stories about the clients and lawyers whose cases have transformed LGBT life in the United States.”

The lawsuits described in the book are Braschi v. Stahl Associates, Nabozny v. Podlesny, Romer v. Evans, Baehr v. Lewin, and Lawrence v. Texas. The cases, writes Ball, “have helped to make LGBT people visible by forcing society to grapple with both their existence and their aspirations.”

Professor Ball, who also carries the title Judge Frederick Lacey Scholar, is author of The Morality of Gay Rights: An Exploration in Political Philosophy (Routledge, 2003) and a co-author of Cases and Materials on Sexual Orientation and the Law (West, 2008). He has written several book chapters and numerous articles in top law reviews. He received a Dukeminier Award from UCLA’s Williams Institute for excellence in sexual orientation and the law scholarship. His next book will be on the history of litigation involving LGBT parents.

Professor Ball received his B.A. summa cum laude from Tufts University, his J.D. from Columbia Law School, and his LL.M. from Cambridge University. He clerked for Chief Justice Paul Liacos of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court and then worked for the Legal Aid Society in New York City. Before joining the Rutgers faculty in 2008, he taught at Penn State University School of Law and the University of Illinois College of Law. He teaches Property, Land Use, and Sexual Orientation and the Law. 

Media Contact: Janet Donohue