In 2009, following some initial conversations with a group organized by Rob Reiner in Los Angeles [Link], Olson joined with David Boies, his previous adversary in Bush v. Gore, bringing a federal lawsuit Perry v. Schwarzenegger in an attempt to overturn Proposition 8, a California state constitutional amendment banning the freedom to marry. In a comprehensive January 2010 article he wrote for Newsweek, he stated:
In response to the Newsweek article, Andrew Sullivan wrote in The Daily Dish column for The Atlantic: "I've spent much of the last decade being more and more depressed by the direction of American conservatism. Ted Olson reminds me why I should hold out hope." [Link]
My involvement in this case has generated a certain degree of consternation among conservatives. How could a politically active, lifelong Republican, a veteran of the Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush administrations, challenge the "traditional" definition of marriage and press for an "activist" interpretation of the Constitution to create another "new" constitutional right?
My answer to this seeming conundrum rests on a lifetime of exposure to persons of different backgrounds, histories, viewpoints, and intrinsic characteristics, and on my rejection of what I see as superficially appealing but ultimately false perceptions about our Constitution and its protection of equality and fundamental rights.
Many of my fellow conservatives have an almost knee-jerk hostility toward gay marriage. This does not make sense, because same-sex unions promote the values conservatives prize. Marriage is one of the basic building blocks of our neighborhoods and our nation. At its best, it is a stable bond between two individuals who work to create a loving household and a social and economic partnership. We encourage couples to marry because the commitments they make to one another provide benefits not only to themselves but also to their families and communities. Marriage requires thinking beyond one's own needs. It transforms two individuals into a union based on shared aspirations, and in doing so establishes a formal investment in the well-being of society. The fact that individuals who happen to be gay want to share in this vital social institution is evidence that conservative ideals enjoy widespread acceptance. Conservatives should celebrate this, rather than lament it.
Legalizing same-sex marriage would also be a recognition of basic American principles, and would represent the culmination of our nation's commitment to equal rights. It is, some have said, the last major civil-rights milestone yet to be surpassed in our two-century struggle to attain the goals we set for this nation at its formation. [Link]
Freedom to Marry salutes Ted Olson as a Voice for Equality! Learn about our many Voices for Equality here.
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