George Chauncey is a professor of history at Columbia University where he also directs the Columbia Research Initiative on the Global History of Sexualities. He writes about the history of gender, sexuality, and the city. He is the author of Gay New York: Gender, Urban Culture, and the Making of the Gay Male World, 1890–1940 (1994) which won the OAH Merle Curti Award for the best book in social history and the OAH Frederick Jackson Turner Award for best first book in any field of U.S. history, and Why Marriage? The History Shaping Today's Debate over Gay Equality (2004). He has been an expert witness on the history of antigay discrimination in more than thirty gay rights cases, including the Supreme Court cases establishing the right of same-sex couples to marry, and he has served as historical consultant to several major public history projects, including exhibitions and lecture series at the New York Public Library, the Chicago History Museum, and the New-York Historical Society. He has received fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, the National Humanities Center, the American Council of Learned Societies, the Rutgers Center for Historical Analysis, and the Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library. In 2012 he was awarded Yale University's Sidonie Miskimin Clauss Prize for Teaching Excellence in the Humanities, primarily for his lecture course on U.S. lesbian and gay history. He is currently working on a book about race, urbanism, and gay male culture and politics in postwar New York City.
Competing claims about the history of marriage, sexual regulation, and homosexuality have played a surprisingly large role in gay rights litigation for more than a generation. This lecture explores those claims and why they mattered so much to the courts.