American Foundation for Equal Rights

AFER Names Robert Levy and John Podesta Advisory Board Co-Chairs

-Closing Arguments in Historic Prop. 8 Trial Set for June 16
-The Respective Heads of Libertarian Cato Institute and Progressive Center for American Progress Support Marriage Equality; Agree Prop. 8 is Unconstitutional
-See Levy/Podesta Op-Ed in June 8 Washington Post; Online Now

LOS ANGELES – The American Foundation for Equal Rights, which launched the historic ongoing federal court challenge to Proposition 8, today named Robert A. Levy, chairman of the libertarian Cato Institute, and John Podesta, President and CEO of the progressive Center for American Progress, as Co-chairs of the Foundation’s Advisory Board.

Prop. 8 is the ballot initiative that eliminated equal marriage rights in California. The Foundation brought together attorneys Theodore Olson and David Boies to argue the case against it, Perry v. Schwarzenegger. Olson and Boies notably argued on opposing sides of the Bush v. Gore case that decided the presidency in 2000. Closing arguments in the case are scheduled for June 16.

“We are honored that Robert Levy and John Podesta will co-chair the American Foundation for Equal Rights Advisory Board,” said Chad Griffin, the Foundation’s Board President. “This case is about affirming the equal protection under the law guaranteed to every American by the Constitution, which is why it is supported by such a diverse spectrum of leaders.”

Levy and Podesta detailed their view of the case in an Op-Ed published in the June 8 edition of the Washington Post that was posted online June 7.


“Although we serve, respectively, as president of the progressive Center for American Progress and chairman of the libertarian Cato Institute, we are not joining the AFER advisory board to present a ‘bi-partisan’ front. Rather, we have come together in a non-partisan fashion, because the principle of equality before the law transcends the left-right divide and cuts to the very core of our nation’s character,” Levy and Podesta say in the Op-Ed. “Simply put, this is not about politics; it’s about an indispensable right vested in all Americans.”

They continue, “Thanks to the genius of our Framers, who separated power between three branches of government, our courts have been able to take the lead – standing up to enforce equal protection, as demanded by the Constitution – even when the executive and legislative branches, and often the public as well, were unwilling to confront wrongful discrimination.

“No less than the constitutional rights of millions of American are at stake. But now that the public appears to be catching up with the Constitution, just a little more leadership from the courts would be the perfect prescription for a free society,” their Op-Ed concludes.

Levy and Podesta join a prominent and diverse roster of civil rights and other leaders already serving on the Advisory Board of the American Foundation for Equal Rights:

• Julian Bond
• Lt. Dan Choi
• Margaret Hoover
• Dolores Huerta
• Cleve Jones
• Stuart Milk
• David Mixner
• Hillary Rosen
• Judy Shepard

About the American Foundation for Equal Rights

The American Foundation for Equal Rights launched its groundbreaking federal court challenge to Prop. 8 in May 2009, and brought together attorneys Theodore Olson and David Boies to argue the case now known as Perry v. Schwarzenegger. Olson and Boies notably represented George W. Bush and Vice President Al Gore in the 2000 Supreme Court case that decided the presidency.

They are representing Kris Perry & Sandy Stier and Paul Katami & Jeff Zarrillo, two couples who want to marry but cannot because of Prop. 8.

The powerful testimony of the plaintiffs along with the presentation of 17 witnesses and revealing cross-examination of the defendant-intervenors’ witnesses clearly exposed the unconstitutionality of Prop. 8. A summary of the trial can be found at

About Robert A. Levy

Robert A. Levy is chairman of the Cato Institute’s board of directors. He joined Cato as senior fellow in constitutional studies in 1997 after 25 years in business. He also sits on boards of the Institute for Justice, the Federalist Society, and the George Mason University School of Law.

He founded CDA Investment Technologies, a major provider of financial information and software, and was its CEO until 1991. Levy clerked for Judge Royce C. Lamberth on the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., and for Judge Douglas H. Ginsburg on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.
From 1997 until 2004, Levy was an adjunct professor of law at Georgetown University. He has written numerous articles on investments, law, and public policy. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Washington Post, National Review, and many other publications. Levy has also discussed public policy on national radio and TV programs, including ABC’s Nightline, CNN’s Crossfire, Fox’s The O’Reilly Factor, MSNBC’s Hardball, and NBC’s Today Show. His latest book, co-authored with William Mellor, is “The Dirty Dozen: How Twelve Supreme Court Cases Radically Expanded Government and Eroded Freedom.”

Levy received his Ph.D. in business from the American University and his J.D. degree from the George Mason University School of Law.

About John Podesta

John Podesta is the President and CEO of the Center for American Progress. Under his leadership, the Center has become a notable leader in the development of and advocacy for progressive policy.

Prior to founding the Center in 2003, Podesta served as White House Chief of Staff to President William J. Clinton. He served in the president’s cabinet and as a principal on the National Security Council. While in the White House, he also served as both an assistant to the president and deputy chief of staff, as well as staff secretary and a senior policy advisor on government information, privacy, telecommunications security, and regulatory policy.

Most recently, Podesta served as co-chair of President Obama’s transition, where he coordinated the priorities of the incoming administration’s agenda, oversaw the development of its policies, and spearheaded its appointments of major cabinet secretaries and political appointees.

Additionally, Podesta has held numerous positions on Capitol Hill, including counselor to Democratic Leader Senator Thomas A. Daschle (1995-1996); chief counsel for the Senate Agriculture Committee (1987-1988); and chief minority counsel for the Senate Judiciary Subcommittees on Patents, Copyrights, and Trademarks; Security and Terrorism; and Regulatory Reform (1981-1987).

A Chicago native, Podesta is a graduate of Knox College and the Georgetown University Law Center, where he is currently a visiting professor of law. He also authored “The Power of Progress: How America’s Progressives Can (Once Again) Save Our Economy, Our Climate and Our Country.”

About the Plaintiffs

Kris Perry and Sandy Stier have been together for ten years and are the parents of four boys. Perry leads a state agency that promotes education and health for children under five. She holds a BA from the University of California, Santa Cruz and an MSW from San Francisco State University. Stier works for a county health department. She is originally from Iowa and is a graduate of the University of Iowa. Perry and Stier first tried to marry in 2004, after the City of San Francisco began issuing licenses. They live in Berkeley, CA.

Paul Katami and Jeff Zarrillo have been together for eight years. Katami is a fitness expert and business owner who graduated from Santa Clara University before receiving his graduate degree from UCLA. Zarrillo is a general manager for a movie theater company. A native of New Jersey, Zarrillo graduated from Montclair State University. Having wanted to marry each other for more than two years, they considered options including traveling to other states for a “civil union,” but felt any alternative fell short of marriage. They live in Burbank, CA.