“FROM DISGUST to HUMANITY” | Sexual Orientation & Constitutional Law” by Martha C. Nussbaum (2010) Martha Nussbaum is a professor of law, philosophy and divinity at the University of Chicago. The premise of Nussbaum’s book is that disgust is the prime motivating factor fueling the fight against equality for LGBT citizens. As part of the faith community, one of the most prevalent arguments I hear in support of the withholding of same-sex marriage is “Marriage is NOT a civil right.” Well, that is true for now, BUT, as I read this book, it was abundantly clear to me that it is inevitable under the Constitution.
This book has strongly solidified my own understanding of how the Constitution, civil rights and emotionally charged human disgust intertwine. Nussbaum carefully, elegantly and compellingly builds the case for same-sex marriage by relying on Supreme Court and lower court decisions. Since reading this book, I have found that my own arguments in conversation and writing for same-sex marriage are greatly strengthened. Even as Christian, I realize that no matter what I may have once thought about same-sex marriage morally, that is insignificant when positioned aside the legal guidance of our country, the Constitution.
Each chapter is carefully constructed to form logical arguments. We are given the background of how we have been manipulated with the dogma of “ickyness” to believe that the denial of marriage for same-sex loving couples is right for our nation, our families and for LGBT people themselves. The body function focused conservative darlings of the ’80’s and ’90’s tainted how we think about and see LGBT people.
Nussbaum then deals with Supreme Court decisions having roots in: religion, race, gender and disabilities. The touchstone cases for LGBT equality are dissected in a completely understandable manner and you will comprehend why each of these cases is important and pivotal.
My copy of the book is marked up, highlighted and written it. It is a record of “aha moments” for me. I am an advocate for LGBT equality in the church and this book may have been the most significant book I have read in years. It really does not matter in a legal sense what I believe should or should not be legal in the US, those decisions are made within the context of the Constitution and not the Bible. Christians may often think they can influence civil rights through their moral beliefs. They can’t; the Constitution reigns.
In order to be both a good citizen and a Christian who is devoted to equality and justice for all citizens, it is important to follow the trend of what the Constitution offers in terms of civil rights. Opposing the rights of others is neither Christian nor American. “From Disgust to Humanity” will give those who dialogue about marriage equality the tools you need to have intelligent conversations about rights. For those who are not clear on the progression of marriage as a civil right for LGBT people, this book might be a great primer to read so that you stop saying, frankly, absolutely stupid things in conversation.
Moral assessment of people is not a tool by which you may withhold civil rights. I found myself saying “YES, YES!” constantly throughout this book. Imagine that happening while reading Constitutional Law? Nussbaum makes it understanding without dumbing it down and the logical progression is masterful.
I had the pleasure of attending a lecture of Nussbaum’s in NV last spring with my daughter who is headed to a life of service in equality issues. We were both amazed at her ability to build intelligent arguments from her background of law, ethics and divinity. She is a brilliant woman and excellent writer.
“From Disgust to Humanity” is one of the best purchases I have made in a hard cover book. I refer to it often. If you want to engage in discussions with credibility from a legal POV, get this book. You will be smiling while reading Constitutional Law, really, as amazing as that sounds, really.