Ted Olson and David Boies seemed to be the most unlikely team in equality history. The two attorneys were opponents in the infamous Bush V Gore case in which the U.S. Supreme Court stopped the 2000 Florida recount, resulting in the George W. Bush presidency.
Olson is a staunch conservative. Boies is a liberal. Together they joined forces and filed the federal lawsuit against Proposition 8, the state's 2008 gay marriage ban. They took the case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which resulted in the restoration of marriage equality in the Golden State.
One year after their historic victory, Olson and Boies recently appeared at the San Francisco LGBT Center to talk about the case, their unique friendship, and to sign copies of their new book, Redeeming the Dream: The Case for Marriage Equality.
They've always been friends, they assured the packed room, even when they were legal adversaries. The Bush V Gore case in fact strengthened that friendship.
"We felt passionate about our cases during Bush V Gore," said Boies. "But we were not enemies. I respected his integrity. Lawyers ought not to be enemies when they are on opposite sides."
Many in the LGBT community were apprehensive about Olson's involvement in the case, as he continues to be a supporter of President Bush. "Marriage is a conservative value," he said to the audience. "To build a family and to raise children in a stable environment, well, what in the world are we thinking to say that this is wrong?"
"We've got to work together and find common ground," said Boies, pointing out that people couldn't agree on everything, no matter which side of the political fence they were on."
Olson explained why they took on the marriage equality issue. "We thought it had potential to be a milestone," he said. "I feel passionate about equality."
"California is such a beacon of diversity, how could they do this?" he said referring to Prop 8. "We thought if we put our firms together people would see that this is a non-partisan issue, and we would win in the court of public opinion."
The men said that Dr. Martin Luther King provided the inspiration for the book's title. "We felt that there was a dream in California that had been taken away," said Olson. "But the dream was still there. We read a lot of Dr. King during the case." In 1963, Dr. King delivered his historic "I Have a Dream" speech during the March on Washington, which was a turning point of the Civil Rights movement.
Boies recalled the 2004 Winter of Love when then Mayor Gavin Newsom defied state law by marrying Del Martin and Phylis Lyon, a lesbian couple who'd been together since the '50s.
"It was Newsom who brought me face-to-face with the discrimination," he said. "I remember the TV images of people coming to San Francisco and seeing the joy in their faces. It was important from that moment on to establish marriage equality."
Boies continued: "Equality is important. When you deprive rights it establishes that the government thinks that certain people are second class. This is the most satisfying case we've ever done. We try in the book to explain the stories of our plaintiffs, who are wonderful people."
Those plaintiffs, lesbian couple Kris Perry and Sandy Stier of Berkley, and gay couple Paul Katami and Jeff Zarrillo of Los Angeles, are now legally married. Thanks to the lawsuit they filed and to the work of their attorneys, marriage equality is ensconced in California.
The day-by-day accounting of their story makes for riveting reading in Redeeming the Dream. It's the story which opened the marriage floodgates.
"There have been identical rulings in places where you wouldn't expect to see such rulings, like Texas, Oklahoma and Utah," Boies said proudly.