Like anyone who pays relative attention to national and/or LGBTQ news before watching this documentary, I was aware that one June 26th 2013 the Supreme Court of the United States declared the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and the California Proposition that labeled marriage as happening exclusively between a man and a woman (Prop 8) unconstitutional. What I did not know was the whirlwind that was the legal battle that presided it.
“The Case Against 8” (2014), directed by Ben Cotner and Ryan White, follows the history of, the legal proceeding to, and the final verdict on, California’s Proposition 8. It follows the personal lives of two couple who were called upon as plaintiffs in the case, Kristin Perry and Sandra Stier and Jeffery Zarrillo and Paul Katami, along with their legal team lead by Theodore Olson and David Boies, as they journey through the four-year legal struggle that comprised the became the center of one of the largest legal battles of the century.
You may or may not recognize the names Olson and Boies. Ed Olson previously worked for then-Govoner George W. Bush during the landmark case that arose in the state of Florida as a result of the 2000 Presidential Election between Bush and Al Gore. Olson spear-headed the legal proceedings that would eventually end up handing the election to Bush. You’re probably thinking, “Well, that sucks for Al Gore’s lawyer. Wait, who was Al Gore’s lawyer?” Good question… one David Boies.
So, when Olson was asked by American’s For Equal Rights (AFER) to help them in overturning Proposition 8, he couldn’t think of a better co-counsel than his opposition in 2000. With this legal All-Star team, then began the vetting process to undo the ban gay marriage in the state of California after it had previously been legal. Let’s talk about that because it was among the more interesting facts in the movie. The legal case, know eventually as Hollingsworth v. Perry, began when Kristin Perry and Sandra Stier were informed in May of 2009 that their legal marriage license, that they had gotten in 2004 days before their wedding, was now void. Imagine getting a letter in the mail saying, “Hi, remember your spouse? Well, they’re no longer legally your spouse. Nice try though.” Signed by your county’s Clerk-Regester.
The idea that someone can not have access to a fundamental right in this country because of who they are in love with is absurd, and wrong. Hence why arguably the most well-known conservative lawyer and a staunch liberal counselor have no qualms about joining forces to fight a proposition that was designed to discriminate people in the state of California. However, not everyone agrees that making a documentary about the lives of those involved in this case was a good idea. Alyssa Rosenberg of the Washington Post wrote an article in which she makes the claim that “The Case Against 8”, along with Jo Becker’s book on the same subject “Forcing the Spring”, distort the greater historical accuracy of gay rights in this country by leaving out key points of prior gay rights cases like those in Iowa, Texas, and notably the 2001 case of Goodridge v. Department of Public Health in Massachusetts.
But, this film isn’t called, “The Case Against Every Anti-Gay Rights Piece of Legislation in US History”. It’s called “The Case Against 8”, and in that light, the documentarians do a thoroughly well-planned and encompassing job of every major detail involving Hollingsworth v. Perry and the fight to unlegitimize a proposition in California that was made with the express purpose of discriminating against people for their sexual preference. If you can settle for learning JUST about Proposition 8 and the process by which is was overturned by the Supreme Court, the best suggestion would be to watch this documentary.