E.J. Graff

E.J. Graff writes on social-justice and human-rights issues, particularly discrimination and violence against women and children; marriage and family policy; and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender lives. She is a resident scholar at the Brandeis Women's Studies Research Center and the author of What Is Marriage For? The Strange Social History of Our Most Intimate Institution (Beacon Press, 1999, 2004).

Recent Articles

Equality's Nor'easter

AP Photo/Steven Senne
AP Photo/Steven Senne Rhode Island state senator Donna Nesselbush, a Democrat from Pawtucket, reacts seconds after the state senate passed a same-sex marriage bill. At this point, it’s almost a yawn: The last and most Catholic New England state, tiny Rhode Island, population just over one million, passed marriage equality last week. Just nine years after Massachusetts set off moral panic nationwide and triggered the final wave of state constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage, all of New England has now followed the Bay State’s lead. Rhode Island has recognized same-sex marriages performed in other states since 2010; nowhere were you more than an hour’s drive from a state where you could marry—the Ocean State is bordered by Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New York, all equal-marriage states. What does it mean that the most socially tolerant region in the country—New England, which, had it not fostered the American revolution, could easily fit...

The Scouts Ask: Gay or Nay?

Last week, the Boy Scout leadership did something very smart: It announced its policy change on gays in Scouts during an overwhelming news week, when almost no one would pay attention. Now let’s give it the ridicule it deserves. The Scouts say they will propose to the voting members of the Boy Scouts of America’s national council—nearly 1,500 of them who will meet in Texas the week of May 20—that the organization allow openly gay Scouts. But that openness will last only until a Boy Scout is 21. Openly gay adults will still be banned as Scout leaders. Various different ideologies could underlie this “compromise.” One is the blood libel that has long been levied against gay folks: that because we can’t “reproduce naturally,” we recruit by luring children into our ranks via molestation or temptation, and that allowing us near children is like inviting drug dealers to hang out on school playgrounds. Another is the idea that we are...

Don't Leave the House

AP Photo/Julio Cortez
At 5:30 a.m., we awakened to the ping of texts from friends around the country asking if we were okay. That’s how we learned that the Arsenal Mall in Watertown—the town a mile away where I lived for 20 years and the mall where we do our house and garden and video-game shopping—is crawling with SWAT teams, snipers, FBI, and that our house is on lockdown. I live now in a pretty busy Cambridge neighborhood, with the sound—from one and a half blocks away—of Fresh Pond Parkway’s steady traffic as the usual background hum. The elementary school across the street is usually buzzing with squealing children. But this morning the only sounds were sirens, helicopters, and spring birdsong. How many times is it possible to say this kind of thing just does not happen here? Absolutely nothing happens in Watertown. I know—I lived there for 20 years, and that was one of my major complaints. It’s a quiet little suburb of Boston and Cambridge on the...

Boston Reels

AP Photo/Charles Krupa
AP Photo/Charles Krupa It was a chilly morning, but the radio reminded us that this was the perfect weather for the Marathon (here in Boston, there’s only one; the rest are mere imitators). Last year we had a fabulous 80-degree day, but the marathoners suffered terribly, with record numbers of them languishing in the heat. So I sent them good, hopeful wishes as I took my dog around the pond, my fingers freezing. We all know the Marathon— the start way out in leafy Hopkinton, one of those absurdly postcard-pretty New England towns; the crowds cheering those who are flagging at Heartbreak Hill, a long and agonizing slope that comes at 20.5 miles into the race, where you can feel the sweat and tears flying off the runners. Everyone has either run it or gone to watch it at least once in their time here. My wife adores Patriots’ Day— which in theory commemorates the battles of Lexington and Concord but in practice lets every state employee (like her) off to watch...

Falling Through the Looking Glass

Flickr/majunznk Protestors make their case before yesterday's DOMA hearing at the Supreme Court. As I sat in the press gallery off to the side of the Supreme Court yesterday morning, waiting for the justices to file in and begin hearing arguments about the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), I had that sickly excited feeling that you get when the roller-coaster car is climbing the first hill. The day before was easier for me: I didn’t want the Court to take Perry , the Prop 8 case, to begin with. I was relieved when very quickly we all could hear that the justices had no appetite for a broad ruling. But the DOMA case—and here please let me confess that I’m terribly human—the DOMA case is about my marriage. As regular readers will know, I’m married to my wife in Massachusetts, but because DOMA bars the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages performed in the states, I’m not married in the United States. The...