Ted Olson and David Boies found themselves on opposite sides during the Bush v. Gore case but fighting together for marriage equality in Perry v. Hollingsworth.
Olson, a Republican, talked with PGN about the case for marriage equality, his new book and his friendship with Boies.
PGN: The one-year anniversary of the Supreme Court’s ruling on Proposition 8 is nearing. What lessons did you take from that, and what has it been like seeing the impact of that ruling across the country?
TO: One of the most significant things I would say is that 12 federal district judges throughout the United States have held prohibitions on persons getting married who are gay and lesbian as unconstitutional. All of those rulings have been unanimous and there have not been any decisions in the one-year period going the other way. Each and every one of them have found that these prohibitions are unconstitutional.
PGN: You and David Boies served on opposing sides during Bush v. Gore. Was it difficult setting your differences aside in Perry v. Hollingsworth?
TO: It was actually quite easy. We have become friends in the years since Bush v. Gore and we knew one another prior to that. We became friends and our wives have become friends and we are always doing things together. He is an accomplished lawyer and someone I find easy to work with. We also found that the things we agree upon more outweigh the things we disagree upon and, if we do disagree on things, we talk about it, just like how I think the rest of the country should do. He is a superb person.
PGN: What inspired you to take the Perry v. Hollingsworth case?
TO: I grew up in California, and the discriminatory laws stunned me. I have always thought of California and the place I grew up in as a place that was open and understanding and respectful of its fellow citizens. Proposition 8 was an act of intolerance and discrimination, and it was harmful to LGBT citizens. I always felt it was wrong to discriminate against and ostracize and slur a group of people. They are our fellow citizens, brothers and sisters.
PGN: What motivated you to write “Redeeming the Dream”?
TO: We felt that, because we had a gratifying and privileged experience in the fight against discrimination, we felt the trial of this case and arguments we made in court provided an education that American citizens should know about. We felt that we had learned a lot and we wanted to make sure our contribution could go on and continue to tell the story and fight for equality.
PGN: What has it been like to see all these states ruling for marriage equality based upon the Prop. 8 case?
TO: It is inspirational and gratifying and brings tears to my eyes. When we started this case, there were only three states that allowed same-sex couples to get married and now there are 19, plus the District of Columbia, and changes are occurring rapidly. It is gratifying to see how this is happening and it is close to the point where half the citizens live in states that allow same-sex marriage.
PGN: Can you talk me through the day when the Supreme Court ruled on Prop. 8; what were the emotions like?
TO: It is almost impossible to describe. We had been working on this case for over four years and became close to our clients and other LGBT people who helped us and rooted for the right result. To see this come to pass and see the looks on people’s faces and the relief and gratitude was amazing. Ironically that day I had to be in Philly in the Third Circuit Court of Appeals arguing another case. We were getting news flashes on our iPhones and Blackberries of what was going on. We were very excited about it and all of us on the team, including our clients, got on airplanes after the decision came down and headed out to California so we could celebrate the good news.
PGN: Do you think the Republican Party is evolving on the issue of marriage equality?
TO: I think it is. I think that conservatives, including Republicans, are starting to understand in increasing numbers that it is wrong to discriminate against LGBT citizens and that they are equally entitled to rights and privileges in this country and the same dreams and aspirations that the rest of us have. Almost every day you hear of some action from the Republican direction; it isn’t happening over night, but I think we are making progress.
“David Boies and Theodore Olson vs. The Supreme Court” will begin at 6:30 p.m. June 20 at the National Constitution Center. Admission ranges from $20-$35. For more information or to reserve a spot, visit www.constitutioncenter.org.