Are the Courts Ahead of the Public on Gay Rights?

Nearly 20 years ago, University of Chicago Professor Gerald Rosenberg attempted to prove that the Supreme Court cannot by itself accomplish significant social change. Instead, its rulings rarely have the kind of transformative effect on society that laws passed by Congress and enforced by a President can have. He argued in his book The Hollow Hope that both Brown v. Board of Education and Roe v. Wade make his case.
The civil rights changes would have happened whether Brown was decided or not, he wrote. And in Roe, the court's ruling came too soon, he argued, before the public was ready to accept abortions, a timing that has led to decades of social divisions. Two years ago, Rosenberg updated his book with a focus on the gay-rights legal campaigns, and concluded that his thesis on the inability of the court to instigate widespread social change holds.


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