There’s been a lot of haranguing lately about how New York Times investigative reporter Jo Becker in Forcing the Spring and iconic attorneys Ted Olson and David Boies in Redeeming the Dream: The Case for Marriage Equality didn’t accurately write the books their critics wanted them to write or failed to grasp the contextual history in which Prop 8. was actually merely a blip—a dangerous, important moment—but a specific blip nonetheless, considering the larger marriage equality movement and (in their minds) the much more important Windsor case.
And now comes the HBO documentary, The Case Against 8, premiering tonight at 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. Pacific. It chronicles the behind-the-scenes personal story of the impact Prop. 8 and the efforts to undo it had on the plaintiffs in the federal case—Kris Perry & Sandy Stier and Jeff Zarrillo and Paul Katami. The reviewer at The American Prospect called it, “an intermittently moving bunch of essentially mindless goo,” though he cried at the end when the couples were finally allowed to get married after their five-year struggle. Apparently it was not what he expected in a documentary, ergo it’s a failure.
What it is, however, is the story of how Kris and Sandy from Alameda County and Jeff and Paul from Burbank became the two couples who stood in for same-sex couples throughout the country (given how high profile the case became) and lesbians and gays who aspired to marriage—and LGBT activists pissed as hell that we had won marriage equality in the California Supreme Court in 2008, with 18,000 couples getting legally married, and then the wrongly informed citizens of California took away that fundamental constitutional right.
The documentary tells the human story behind the legal case that , for the first time ever , forced the anti-gay opposition to explain themselves—and they couldn’t. Additionally, that "blip" of a case proved that Prop. 8 came out of animus toward gay people, was an irrational hatred based on lies, myths and religious beliefs that were improperly and unconstitutionally presented as facts. In court—and since cited in other court cases—was the tearing apart on the stand in District Court of the Prop. 8 proponents' fundamental contention that banning same sex marriage in any way furthered or had any impact at all on procreation. Hardly a "blip" in significance since that's the crux of all their arguments.
But The Case Against 8 isn’t about those jerks. It’s about Kris and Sandy and Jeff and Paul. And for those of us who know them, who’ve reported on them—we know they are not prop-up dolls for Olson and Boies to manipulate and worry that the frothy-mouthed criticism may have slopped over onto them and their good intentions. They are flesh and blood gay couples who love each other and want from themselves - and all same sex couples - the same rights afforded opposite sex couples.
As a reminder to for our Southern California friends, it was Paul, sitting on his couch in Burbank, who got so angry at the National Organization for Marriage’s obnoxious video “The Gathering Storm” that he talked to some friends and put together his own response under the rubric “Love Not Laws.” Spot Jeff and Paul before they became part of the Prop 8 lawsuit—when they were two ordinary pissed off guys who wanted to DO something.
Here's that horrible NOM ad:
Here's Paul's video, one of the first to feature real same sex couples, something advised against by pollsters at the time: