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social sciences

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Griffin, Chad (b. 1973)  
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The defense was stymied by the fact that they were unable to argue against same-sex marriage on religious grounds or on the inferiority of homosexuals, since such arguments would not be admissible as appropriate governmental reasons for denying a fundamental right.

Instead, the proponents of Proposition 8 were reduced to arguing that the only purpose of marriage is procreation and that permitting same-sex couples to marry would in some unspecified way contribute to the "deinstitutionalization" of marriage.

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On August 4, 2010, Judge Walker issued his decision. His 136-page opinion demolished the credibility of the defendants' witnesses, systematically outlined 80 findings of facts established by the plaintiffs, and concluded unambiguously that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional.

Judge Walker's historic ruling was quickly appealed to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. On December 6, 2010, a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit heard oral arguments in the case. The judges asked both sides to discuss not only the substantive issues at dispute, but also the question of whether the proponents of Proposition 8 had standing to defend it since California's governor and attorney general both declined to do so.

On January 11, 2011, the Court of Appeals referred the question of standing to the California Supreme Court, which did not issue a ruling until November 7, 2011, when it decided that the proponents did have standing.

Meanwhile, the proponents filed a motion alleging that Judge Walker's decision should be vacated on the grounds that he should have recused himself since he is gay and in a relationship. Other issues such as whether the videos of the trial could be released were also litigated.

Finally, on February 7, 2012, in a narrowly focused decision, the Court of Appeals, on a 2-1 vote, declared Proposition 8 unconstitutional. The decision was stayed pending an appeal, first for an en banc hearing of the Ninth Circuit (which was subsequently denied) and then to the United States Supreme Court, where it was accepted for the 2012-13 term.

Although the hope was that a Supreme Court decision declaring Proposition 8 unconstitutional would include a ringing declaration that same-sex marriage is a fundamental right, that did not happen. Instead, in the ruling issued on June 26, 2013, the Court ruled that the proponents of Proposition 8 lacked standing to appeal the decision of Judge Walker. The result of the Supreme Court decision was that marriage equality returned to California.

Even if the epic battle against Proposition 8 waged by AFER did not yield the kind of sweeping ruling, Griffin and Reiner had hoped for, it nevertheless added important momentum to the cause of marriage equality, exposed the animus that motivated the discriminatory proposition and the fatuousness of the arguments in favor of excluding gay people from marriage, and returned marriage equality to the nation's largest state.

Moreover, soon after the historic marriage rulings at the Supreme Court on June 26, 2013 (including the striking down of the federal Defense of Marriage Act in Windsor v. U.S., AFER announced that it would continue litigating the question of equal rights to marry. Olson and Boies soon took on Virginia's ban on same-sex marriage, which may lead to the Supreme Court ruling they sought in the Prop 8 case.

National Profile

Griffin's work with AFER made him a prominent figure on the national glbtq-rights scene. He has aptly described AFER's public relations effort as "perhaps the grandest public-awareness campaign that this movement has ever seen." The organization's active website serves to keep the larger movement for marriage equality in the news. In addition, the long and winding case served to make heroes in the glbtq community of the legal "dream team" of Olson and Boies and of the plaintiffs and others associated with AFER, including Reiner and Griffin.

Moreover, the promotion of the Proposition 8 challenge also included the production of star-studded readings in both Los Angeles and New York of Dustin Lance Black's play 8 that dramatized the trial and other initiatives that brought attention to AFER's work (and by extension to Griffin).

In addition, Griffin had served as one of several executive producers of Kirby Dick's controversial documentary, Outrage (2009), which documented the hypocrisy of closeted gay politicians who work against glbtq rights. Although Griffin's principal contribution to the film was to help raise money for its production, his connection with it served to associate him with a new gay militancy.

He was, thus, an obvious candidate for consideration as a replacement as head of the Human Rights Campaign, when Joe Solmonese, who had led the organization since 2005, announced that he planned to step down as president on March 31, 2012.

Griffin may have been an obvious candidate to consider, but he was also something of an odd choice for the organization. Griffin, after all, had earned a reputation for bucking the gay establishment. The very formation of AFER was a kind of rebuke of the gay establishment organizations, which refused to sponsor the Proposition 8 lawsuit.

Moreover, when the established legal organizations sought to participate belatedly in the Proposition 8 lawsuit, Griffin pointedly reminded them that they had attempted to undermine the case before it had been filed. He repeatedly refused to allow them to intervene in the legal proceedings, thus not only exercising a proprietorial attitude but also failing to honor a tradition of cooperation that the gay legal organizations had established.

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