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social sciences

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Griffin, Chad (b. 1973)  
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Reiner and Griffin decided to try a different approach: to go to federal court and argue that marriage is a fundamental right and that denying it to same-sex couples violated the U.S. Constitution's guarantee of equal protection.

To her surprise, Michele Reiner learned from a friend that former Solicitor General Theodore Olson, a Republican who had represented George W. Bush in the Supreme Court case that decided the 2000 Presidential election, Bush v. Gore, was a supporter of same-sex marriage.

Sponsor Message.

Griffin flew to Washington, D. C. to meet with Olson. Though no commitment was made then, when Olson was next in Los Angeles, he met with Griffin and the Reiners in the latters' living room. He expressed interest in mounting a constitutional challenge. Fearful that gay groups might be suspicious of him because he was George W. Bush's Solicitor General, he suggested bringing in Democratic attorney David Boies, who represented Al Gore in Bush v. Gore.

When Griffin announced that Olson and Boies would lead a challenge to Proposition 8 in federal court, the news was not greeted enthusiastically by most of the established gay legal and political organizations, including Lambda Legal, the ACLU, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, the Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, Freedom to Marry, and the Human Rights Campaign. They thought the move was premature and risky.

In particular, they feared that a loss before an unsympathetic Supreme Court could set back the quest for equal rights for years to come. So suspicious were some individuals of Olson that they speculated that he might deliberately lose the case.

American Foundation for Equal Rights

When none of the established gay groups were interested in sponsoring the lawsuit, Griffin and Reiner decided to form their own foundation, the American Foundation for Equal Rights (AFER), whose entire focus would be to sponsor the federal lawsuit. They hoped that the lawsuit would ultimately establish same-sex marriage as a fundamental right throughout the country.

To fund the foundation and lawsuit, Griffin reached out to the gay community and Reiner to a handful of like-minded millionaires with an interest in equal rights, including Norman Lear, Steve Bing, and David Geffen, who provided approximately five million dollars in seed money.

Among those joining the effort were producer Bruce Cohen and screenwriter Dustin Lance Black--who had collaborated on Milk, the Oscar-winning biopic about pioneering gay-rights advocate Harvey Milk. Black was impressed by the daring of the enterprise. "There is a difference between AFER and other organizations," Black said. "You don't ask for less, and I think that's what other organizations have been doing over the past decade and a half. It's what needed to stop."

Griffin also reached out to former Chairman of the Republican National Committee Ken Mehlman, who had recently acknowledged his homosexuality and accepted some responsibility for the that characterized the Bush re-election strategy in 2004, when many of the state bans on same-sex marriage were placed on the ballot (and enacted) in order to increase the turn-out of conservative and anti-gay voters.

As atonement for the despicable strategy he helped execute for the Bush campaign, Mehlman helped raise more money for the Proposition 8 lawsuit and subsequently worked to raise money to help pass marriage equality legislation in New York and elsewhere.

Griffin helped select the plaintiffs—a lesbian couple, Kris Perry and Sandy Stier, who have four children, and a gay male couple, Paul Katami and Jeff Zarillo—and the case came to be known as Perry v. Schwarzenegger, and then, Perry v. Brown—because the nominal defendant in the case is the Governor of California. When the case was appealed to the Supreme Court of the United States, it was named Hollingsworth v. Perry.

Proposition 8 Trial

The case was filed in May 2009 in the Federal District Court for Northern California and was assigned to the court's Chief Judge, Vaughn R. Walker, who was appointed to the bench by President George H. W. Bush in 1989.

In the course of the trial, which spanned twelve days in January and two days in June 2010, Olson and Boies systematically built their case around the history of marriage, the harm that denial of marriage rights does to gay and lesbian couples and their children, and the irrationality of the ban.

Introducing a massive amount of evidence, they demonstrated that Proposition 8 was enacted out of animus against homosexuals and that it caused great harm to gay men and lesbians for no rational governmental purpose.

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