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What kind of right is the right to marry? “The Unequal Promise of Marriage Equality” examines the coincident decisions of Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder, which invalidated a key provision of the Voting Rights Act, and United States v. Windsor, which declared unconstitutional the Defense of Marriage Act and opened the door to federal recognition of same-sex marriage in the United States. In considering these decisions, I argue against popular readings that interpreted the former decision as a regressive turn from racial equality and the latter as a progressive move toward equality for same-sex couples. Instead, I read the power relations legislated in the “right to marry,” a right whose racialized history demands a more complex vision of what constitutes a progressive politics.