Federal gay marriage challenge has Hollywood style

Thu Jun 18, 2009 1:16pm EDT
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By Peter Henderson

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - The story of two famous U.S. lawyers from opposite ends of the political spectrum banding together to launch a bold and unexpected fight for gay marriage sounds like it could have been written in Hollywood.

In many ways, it is.

A handful of political filmmakers led by a Democratic consultant have crafted a gay rights challenge they hope will reach the U.S. Supreme Court.

The case which has its first hearing in a federal San Francisco court on July 2 could quickly make gay marriage a national right, or, some veteran gay rights advocates fear, cripple the movement.

The team has political experience, winning referenda in California in particular, and has brought together real-world firepower in the form of Ted Olson and David Boies, the lawyers who faced off in the 2000 election vote recount that led to George W. Bush's presidency.

What sets them apart is the willingness to take on a court case that advocates steeped in the cause have avoided.

"Patience is a virtue I've quite frankly never possessed -- if patience is a virtue," said Chad Griffin, 35, who began his career in the political big leagues more than a decade ago as the youngest person to work on a president's West Wing staff.

"History is on our side, law is on our side," added Griffin, who is gay.   Continued...

<p>Attorney David Boies (2nd L) addresses a news conference announcing a federal lawsuit to halt California's same-sex marriage ban, in Los Angeles May 27, 2009. Ted Olson and Boies, who squared off in the legal case that determined the 2000 U.S. presidential election, teamed up to challenge California's gay marriage ban in a move that if successful would allow same-sex couples to wed anywhere in the United States. The lawsuit, filed on behalf of two same-sex California couples barred from marrying under the voter-approved measure, Proposition 8 (Prop 8), puts them at odds with gay rights advocates who see a federal court challenge as risky. Also present were Chad Griffin (L), board president of American Foundation for Equal Rights, plaintiffs Jeffrey Zarrillo (2nd R) and Paul Katami (R). REUTERS/ Fred Prouser</p>