Sherlock Holmes, Charley Pankhurst, and Kamala Harris

On February 24, 2004, President George W. Bush told the country that he supported a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, warning that such unions threatened the most fundamental institution of civilization and defied millennia of human experience.

On March 11, the California Supreme Court ordered San Francisco to stop issuing the licenses. On August, some 4000 marriages were declared null. Over the following years, voters, legislators, and courts fought over such propositions as the California Defense of Marriage Act and the Eliminates Right of Same-Sex Couples to Marry Act.  In 2008, Prop 8 passed, an amendment to California’s constitution declaring marriage being between a man and a woman.  It was overturned, although not until June, 2013 were its appeals exhausted. Two days later, California Attorney General Kamala Harris stood in San Francisco’s City Hall and married the first same-sex couple of the new era.

Two years later, the US Supreme Court decided that state bans on same-sex marriage were against federal law—ninety years after Sherlock Holmes worked on Billy Birdsong’s case, and came up with the same conclusion:

“After all, if Charley Pankhurst could sign a voting registry, why should Billy Birdsong not sign a marriage contract?”

“But that’s not possible! Is it?”

“I have no idea.”

For the rest of this anniversary month, “The Marriage of Billy Birdsong,” from The Art of Detection,) is free to download, here.

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