Olson An Unlikely Challenger Of Prop 8

  • Playlist
  • Download
  • Embed
    <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

In November 2008, Californians passed Proposition 8, the California Marriage Protection Act, which effectively banned gay marriage. It reads, "only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California."

That change to the California constitution has been challenged in court, by an unlikely legal team: former solicitor general Ted Olson and David Boies, who faced off against each other in Bush v. Gore. Olson and Boies represent two same-sex couples, Kristin Perry and Sandra Stier, and Paul Katami and Jeffrey Zarrillo.

In his opening argument in Perry v. Schwarzenegger in January, Olson made a clear case for equal rights under the law. He cited the Supreme Court's definition of marriage as "of fundamental importance to all individuals." By that standard, Proposition 8 "ended the dream of marriage, the most important relation in life, for the plaintiffs and hundreds of thousands of Californians," without "rational justification" for the discrimination.

Olson is one of the best-known conservative lawyers in the U.S., so he may seem like an unlikely defender of gay marriage. "There are probably a lot of reasons why I took this case," Olson tells host Neal Conan, "but it comes down to, I think that it is time in this nation to end discrimination against individuals on the basis of their sexual orientation." He continues, "I think those of us who are married and can get married don't think, sometimes, about how much it means to be married, or to have the right to be married, if you're denied that right."

Many of Olson's conservative friends have called him up to ask him what in the world he's doing, Olson allows. But he sees marriage between two individuals who love each other as a building block of society. "It should be, really it should be neither conservative nor liberal. It should be an American value, and we should all support that."

And of his former opponent in Bush v. Gore, David Boies, Olson has nothing but compliments. "He's a wonderful individual, as well as being a great lawyer ... We've always been friends, even though we were on opposite sides of the Bush v. Gore case ... He is a marvel to work with."



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

NPR thanks our sponsors

Become an NPR sponsor

Support comes from