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A meticulous consideration of the legal issues surrounding same-sex relations grounded in a far-reaching investigation of how the notion of disgust has determined both civil legislation and public opinion. Identifying a politics of disgust that centers on irrational fears of contamination, "penetrability," and loss of social "solidarity," Nussbaum (Hiding from Humanaity) opposes such problematic foundations for legislation with her own notion of a politics of humanity, based on the need for imaginative engagement with others. Linking imagination with America's founding principles of equality and respect, the author vindicates sexual orientation rights as instrumental to the pursuit of happiness, before engaging with contentious rulings on same-sex marriage, sodomy, and discrimination. An elegant and eloquent defender of sexual freedom, the author is at her best describing the insidious role of disgust in law. However, her frequent recourse to John Stuart Mill would seem to demand a more detailed defense of his ideas on harm, and her reflections on marriage add little to the debate. Nonetheless, as the recent public discourse about empathy among Supreme Court judges indicates, Nussbaum's passionate advocacy of the power of imagination is profound and timely. (Feb.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.
Nussbaum (law and philosophy, Univ. of Chicago) sees the status of lesbian and gay citizens as being transformed in, if not by, the law. Disgust, she says, has often been the attitude of US culture toward homosexuality. She believes the US has been evolving toward a sense of the humanity of its citizens, at least in law and at least with regard to lesbians and gay men. This is most dramatically evident in the treatment of sodomy laws and the evolution from Bowers v. Hardwick (1986) to Lawrence v. Texas (2003). The Colorado antidiscrimination case, Romer v. Evans (1996), receives expansive treatment as does equal marriage. The trip, Nussbaum says, is not complete. Disgust is all around us, but the book presents fresh arguments worth considering, such as a comparison of how some Americans view violence in NASCAR culture and the view of violence in gay culture. The author holds that there is reason for optimism and sees the prospect of enlightened public policy based on some recent constitutional interpretations. Summing Up: Recommended. Lower-division undergraduates and above. J. Brigham University of Massachusetts Amherst