American Foundation for Equal Rights

NYTimes/Maureen Dowd: Weddings for Everybody!


Everything about the climax of the legal quest to overturn California’s ban on gay marriage was appropriately cinematic — even the month best to imagine two men atop a wedding cake or two women walking down the aisle.

“It may be appropriate that the case is coming to closing argument now,” Chief Judge Vaughn Walker said with a twinkle. “June is, after all, the month for weddings.”

The Federal District Court trial that seems tailored for a made-for-TV movie features the remarkable odd-couple pairing of two lawyers who have already been depicted in a made-for-TV movie, “Recount,” about their rivalry in another historic trial, Bush v. Gore. The conservative Ted Olson now prides himself on being “an honorary lesbian,” and the liberal David Boies now prides himself on upbraiding Barack Obama for not pushing to give gays the same shot at marital bliss — and misery — that people like the president’s parents got when interracial marriage was legalized.

Officiating from on high was the dapper and quirky, silver-haired, silver-tongued, silver-goateed Judge Walker, who would have been played in a 40s movie by Clifton Webb. The anti-Ito, Judge Walker moved the trial along without preening for the media, asking thought-provoking and occasionally droll questions of lawyers for both sides. Walker is something of a character who invites magicians to perform at the annual court conference and who once made a mail thief wear a sign that said: “I have stolen mail. This is my punishment.” Heightening the dramatic possibilities, he is also, according to The San Francisco Chronicle, gay himself, which might give Prop 8 proponents ammunition to claim bias if he rules against them.

Chad Griffin, the gay former Clinton aide who is the strategic mastermind of the legal battle against Prop 8, is handsome, boyish and clever, right out of central casting with hip glasses and sharp suits.

In his two-hours-plus closing argument Wednesday, Charles Cooper, the slim, white-haired lawyer arguing against same-sex marriage, evoked the Paul Newman character in “The Verdict,” a man who was out of his depth against a superior legal team.

But Paul Newman was able to lift it in time to save his case. Cooper appeared not to have his heart in his endgame. He didn’t even stay for the Q. and A. part of the news conference after court on Wednesday. Like he had somewhere more important to be in the middle of the afternoon following arguments on a landmark case?

His close was so lame that if you didn’t know better, you’d think he was trying to throw the case. Maybe he was shaken by the fact that some of the defense witnesses had bailed, intimidated by the Boies deposition process. Another defense witness, David Blankenhorn, the president of the Institute for American Values, a group that studies marriage and families, inexplicably ended up helping the plaintiffs when he said that heterosexual couples have been busy “deinstitutionalizing” the institution of marriage, and that adoptive parents are as good as natural parents. He also said that “we will be more American on the day we permit same-sex marriage” and give gays human dignity.

Read the full piece here.