History matters. Sober and sophisticated historical research can make a difference in the world. I am proud to live in a nation that now, per the Obergefell v. Hodges decision, recognizes the rights of gay and lesbian Americans to marry their chosen partners. And I am proud to be a member of the historical profession, which provided key evidence and interpretive analysis to the Court.
As a historian, I naturally love documents. When I saw news of the decision on the front pages of the New York Times, I immediately clicked through to the text of the decision, and began reading…
“Isn’t the weather beautiful?” I was standing outside my child’s elementary school, making small talk with other parents at pick-up time. “Just about time to pull out sandals.”
“Ooh, that’s right, I need to get a pedicure!” exclaimed another mom.
“Wait,” I thought, “need to get a pedicure?”
I had to ask. Maybe it wasn’t the most polite chit-chat in the world, but the social scientist in me couldn’t let it pass. “Do you actually need to do that before you go out of the house in sandals, or you mean you’re feeling inspired to do it?”
She looked uncomfortable, and I could tell I had really put her on the spot. “I wouldn’t go out without a pedicure. It just feels weird to me.” Surreptitiously scanning the schoolyard once summer weather had arrived, I realized that I was the odd one out, at least in my community. Toenail polish was required for women.