On Marriage Equality

Monday Musing” for July 28, 2014

Volume IV, No. 29/179


Book Review: Redeeming the Dream

The Case for Marriage Equality by

David Boies and Theodore B. Olson

By: Assad Meymandi, MD, PhD, DLFAPA*

Redeeming the Dream

298 pages of text

12 pages of index

Penguin Group (USA) LLC

New York, NY


Review of Legal and Social Sciences Books Series

This book is written by two very able lawyers. At the first glance, one is reminded of Shakespeare’s famous line, “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers (Henry VI, Part 2, Act 4, Scene 2.)  Practitioners of the professions of medicine and the law have had an implied adversarial relationship since the days of Hippocrates and Corax of Syracuse in the 5th century BC. So, it is fun to imagine that Shakespeare with his genius in understanding human relationship offered the strong suggestion in favor of the physicians of his time!  But after thumbing through the book, its intellectual and legal gravitas made reading the book most instructive and enlightening.

First, a word about the authors:

The authors, David Boies and Theodore Olson, both attorneys of renown, have argued many cases in the US Supreme Court. They are well known to students and practitioners of forensic medicine. Readers may recognize their names because they argued the case of Gore vs. Bush in the US Supreme Court, the outcome of which is well known. George Bush prevailed and became 43rd US President. The authors belong to political opposite poles, one a liberal Democrat who represented Gore, and Olson extreme conservative Republican who argued for Bush. The outcome was decisive. But during the course of the proceedings of that historic and fateful decision, the two attorneys, politically poles apart, and both of leviathan intellectual gravitas and knowledge of US constitutional law, grew to like each other. A deep friendship between them was the result. It culminated with this cooperative work, Redeeming the Dream.

Here is a little background:  Californians on November 4, 2008 passed the highly controversial Proposition 8, banning same sex marriage. Like the 1519 Luther’s theses nailed to the wall, Proposition 8 defined marriage as the union between a man and a woman. David Boies and Theodore Olson were among the throngs of people who were shocked by the passage of Proposition 8. This book is “the remarkable story of the five year struggle to win the right for gays and lesbians to marry in California…”

The Content:

The book has a preface followed by 17 chapters and an epilogue, followed by acknowledgments and an index. The acknowledgment segment of any book is a most interesting metric of the author’s—in this case authors’– outreach and field work. It also reflects the writer’s general attitude from humility to hubris.

In chapters 7 through 11, with plenty of legalese, but intelligible legalese, the authors take us through Trial I, Trial II, cross-examination, closing and the judge’s decision regarding Proposition 8. The riveting Chapter 13 is a tour de force of how the US Supreme Court explained it in dispassionate and realistic manner. The chapter is most educational and informative.

Vast references are made to 1972 American Psychiatric Association’s decision to remove gender identity as disorder or disease. The authors are careful not to bring in the moral religious of biblical argument into the discussion. The document remains an elegant common sense and legalistic argument linking same sex marriage to basic individual constitutional and civil rights. Faithful readers of this space recall our previous discussion on the same sex marriage from a theological and religious view.

The book teaches that the cornerstone of wisdom is to avoid ignorance that breeds harsh judgment and division and the need for us to continue to be learners and seekers and promoters of what Voltaire so eloquently identified as toleration—not tolerance.  Another lesson of this book is that if the two politically opposite brilliant legal minds like the authors of this book can get together, collaborate, and produce a work of enormous significance and consequence, then we can too. I highly recommend the book to our readers.


*The writer is Adjunct Professor of Psychiatry, University of North Carolina School of Medicine at Chapel Hill, Distinguished Life fellow American Psychiatric Association, and Founding Editor and Editor-in-Chief, Wake County Physician Magazine (1995-2012). He serves as a Visiting Scholar and lecturer on Medicine, the Arts and Humanities at his alma mater the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health.



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