Gay Politics and Precedents

One can find many analyses of the development of gay rights law in America but none are so illuminating as Daniel Pinello’s in his book Gay Rights and American Law. More significantly, while it offers a superb understanding of the recent record of gay rights litigation, the book provides a fine-grained and sophisticated understanding of judicial decisionmaking in this important and developing area of the law. Indeed, the value of the book for students of judicial decisionmaking even transcends its value for students of gay rights jurisprudence. Quantitative empirical studies of judicial decisionmaking, well established in political science, have steadily burgeoned in the legal literature. Such research is enormously important to understanding the law. Unfortunately, much of this research has been incomplete and too discipline-centered. Thus, economists empirically study the law from their own perspective without sufficient appreciation of the claims of law and political science, while political scientists too often fail to appreciate the importance of legal and economic considerations. The disciplines have much to learn from one another. While legal researchers may have done less empirical work than those in other disciplines, and may have erred in the conduct of this research, they have been more integrative in this research and done a much better job of illuminating the importance of law itself. Pinello is a political scientist but conducts his research with an insightful appreciation of the law that is often lacking in political science research.