Historians Oppose Constitutional Amendment Banning Gay Marriage

RELEASE DATE: April 16, 2004
Contact: Lee Formwalt, Executive Director, Organization of American Historians
Tel: (812) 855-7311

Media may also contact the leading national scholars, who are members of the OAH, listed at the end of this press release for additional comments or interviews related to same-sex marriage and U.S. history.


The Executive Board of the Organization of American Historians, the largest professional and learned society dedicated to the teaching and study of American history, including legal and constitutional history, the history of marriage and the family, and the history of civil rights movements, voted unanimously to approve the following resolution in opposition to President Bush's call for a federal constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. This action took place at the organization's annual meeting in Boston, Massachusetts, March 25-28, 2004. The OAH has more than 9,000 members including college and university professors, precollegiate teachers, archivists, public historians, independent scholars, and students:

Research by numerous scholars who have studied marriage, sexuality, and kinship throughout U.S. history supports the view that diverse types of families, including families built on same-sex partnerships, have existed across time, even as law and government have accorded some of those families unequal status. Laws and customs regulating marriage, as well as the U.S. Constitution, have not been static, but have tended to increase the number of people entitled to claim the benefits and responsibilities of legal marriage. Because no evidence exists that a viable democracy depends upon defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman, and because the campaign against same-sex marriage promotes discrimination, the Executive Board of the Organization of American Historians strongly opposes a federal constitutional amendment limiting marriage to heterosexual couples.

Founded in 1907, the Organization of American Historians is a nonprofit association with more than 9,000 individual members and 2,300 institutional subscribers. OAH publishes three quarterly periodicals: the OAH Newsletter, the OAH Magazine of History, an important classroom tool for teachers, and the Journal of American History, which for decades has been the leading scholarly journal for the study of the American past.


George Chauncey, professor of history at the University of Chicago, is author of Gay New York: Gender, Urban Culture, the Making of the Gay Male World, 1890-1940 and has a book due out from Basic Books in August, Why Marriage? The History Shaping Today's Debate over Gay Equality. Phone: c/o Jamie Brickhouse at Basic Books, (212) 340-8161 E-Mail: c/o Jamie.Brickhouse@perseusbooks.com

Nancy Cott, professor of history at Harvard University and director of the Schlesinger Library, is author ofPublic Vows: A History of Marriage and the Nation. E-Mail: ncott@fas.harvard.edu (Professor Cott will provide her phone number in response to E-Mail inquiries.)

Estelle Freedman, professor of history at Stanford University, is the coauthor of Intimate Matters: A History of Sexuality in America (with John DEmilio) and No Turning Back: The History of Feminism and the Future of Women. Phone: (650) 723-4951, E-Mail: ebf@stanford.edu

Michael Grossberg, editor of the American Historical Review and professor of history and law at Indiana University, is the author of Governing the Hearth: Law and the Family in Nineteenth-Century America. Phone: (812) 855-7609, E-Mail: grossber@indiana.edu

Posted: April 16, 2004
Tagged: OAH Press Releases, News of the Organization