Many eyes in the nation are following the trial in a Federal District Court in San Francisco, California over Proposition 8, a November 2008 voter initiative which prohibited gay marriage in California. Closing arguments in the Prop 8 trial are taking place today. Last Wednesday, progressive online organization The Courage Campaign sponsored a conference call with star attorney Theodore Olson, who represents the side seeking to overturn Prop 8. The entire conference call, which also included Olson’s colleagues Chris Dusseault and Ted Boutrous, can be heard here.
Perhaps the most remarkable thing about the lawyers arguing against Prop 8 is that they come from opposite ends of the political spectrum. Olson, who is California-raised and the featured speaker on the Courage Campaign conference call, is a lifelong conservative. He was an Assistant Attorney General in the Reagan administration, and the U.S. Solicitor General (the attorney who argues cases in the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of the U.S. Government) during George W. Bush‘s presidency. In fact, Olson represented George W. Bush in the December 2000 Bush v. Gore case in which five members of the U.S. Supreme Court stopped Florida’s vote recount and handed the Presidency of the U.S. to Bush. Olson is also a 9/11 widower. His wife, conservative commentator Barbara Olson, was killed aboard American Airlines flight 77, which was crashed into the Pentagon on September 11, 2001.
However, Olson’s partner in the Prop 8 case is David Boies, a liberal who was Olson’s opponent in the Bush v. Gore case, as well as the lead attorney for the U.S. Justice Department under President Bill Clinton in its antitrust case against Microsoft. Boies was also Chief Counsel to two different Democratically-controlled U.S. Senate committees in the late 1970s under President Jimmy Carter. Indeed, Olson’s participation in this case on the side of same-sex marriage advocates has some conservatives criticizing him, and others “scratching their heads.”
During the conference call, in response to caller questions, Olson says some very interesting things:
- “Public opinion is very strongly and very steadily moving in favor of gay and lesbian rights.”
- The U.S. Supreme Court has often been ahead of public opinion, as when it struck down Virginia’s law prohibiting interracial marriage in 1967, which in turns shapes future public opinion.
- “We hope … that we’ll not be far away from a day when everyone understands the same now as they do about interracial marriages, that it’s inconceivable, we can’t prevent people from having that relationship by erecting legal barriers to it.”
- Olson believes that his side will win the case in the federal court, but that whoever loses the case will likely appeal, and the case will likely eventually come before the U.S. Supreme Court.
- Rob Reiner, a liberal Hollywood actor and director, is behind Olson’s lawsuit challenging Prop 8. Reiner and his wife Michele, whom Olson calls “heroes,” put together and financed the American Foundation for Equal Rights, including the legal team led by Olson and Boies, to challenge the constitutionality of Prop 8.
- “We will not be complete as a nation dedicated to the proposition that all men and all women are created equal until we start treating our gay and lesbian colleagues as equal.”
© 2010 Matthew Emmer — All Rights Reserved
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