The industry figures backing the federal suit to overturn California’s Proposition 8 welcomed the news that the Supreme Court would review the case, and the show biz activists for same-sex marriage expressed confidence in the outcome.
It was just over four years ago, in the aftermath of the passage of the state’s ban on gay nuptials, that Rob Reiner, his wife Michele and their two political consultants, Chad Griffin and Kristina Schake, hatched the idea to fight the initiative through the federal courts. Enlisting Ted Olson and David Boies, two legal eagles on opposite ends of the political spectrum, to lead the case provided a dose of publicity. David Geffen and Steve Bing provided the millions in seed money to get the effort launched.
Griffin, who is now president of the Human Rights Campaign, said that the court’s decision was “nothing short of a milestone” in the movement for marriage equality.
From the start, the goal had been to get the question of same-sex marriage before the high court.
“Things are going to plan — not necessarily going to schedule — but according to plan,” said screenwriter Dustin Lance Black, who has been part of the effort from the start as a member of the board of the American Foundation of Equal Rights. The org, led by executive director Adam Umhoefer, was set up in the spring of 2009 to pursue the case, and its members include a combination of entertainment, political and civil rights activists.
Producer Bruce Cohen, another member of the foundation’s board, said that “as much as I knew it was a possibility, hearing the word that it would go to the Supreme Court was unexpectedly emotional and exciting.”
“I don’t think anyone could have imagined when the case was filed [in May 2009] the enormous strides that the LGBT movement would take in such a short period of time,” Cohen said. “…There is so much forward movement that I feel like the Surpeme Court’s decision to hear this case could not have happened at a more fortuitous time.”
There had been some trepidation among LGBT leaders of taking s a same-sex marriage case to the federal level, as LGBT leaders had been fighting for marriage equality largely in state courts and, more often than not, by fending off ballot initiatives. Fear of a setback in a conservative-dominated Supreme Court only added to the trepidation of seeing a case come before the justices too quickly.
But the passage of Proposition 8 created divisions on the best strategy to pursue. In winning an Oscar in 2009 for the screenplay for “Milk,” Black took time during his acceptance speech to argue that equal rights for gays and lesbians needed to be fought at the federal level.
“This whole thing is keeping a promise on a very big stage,” Black said. “Today we are one step closer.”
He said that he was “not surprised” by the decision to take the case. “I have to tell you that anyone who has been paying attention to marriage equality can see where we are headed. These justices do not live in a vacuum… They know that this is a can that you can’t continue to kick.”
The court also agreed on Friday to review a case challenging the constitutionality of a provision of the Defense of Marriage Act. Section 3 of the 1996 law defines marriage as between a man and a woman, preventing couples who wed in the nine states where marriage equality is legal from receiving a host of government benefits.