Attorneys David Boies and Theodore Olson, adversaries in the 2000 U.S. Supreme Court battle over the presidential election vote count and allies in the fight to legalize gay marriage in California, agreed again about same-sex unions.
It’s important that “the American people accept that decision and say, ‘Yes, that’s the right decision,’” Olsen said in a panel discussion with Boies today in Chicago.
The lawyers were discussing key cases before the U.S. Supreme Court as part of The Year Ahead: 2014, a two-day conference at the Art Institute of Chicago sponsored by Bloomberg LP. Asking the lawyers about their teaming up to back same-sex marriage in California was Canadian Supreme Court Justice Rosalie Abella.
The men allied in 2009 in filing a federal lawsuit to overturn Proposition 8, California’s voter-passed referendum outlawing same-sex marriage. The U.S. Supreme Court in June declined to disturb a federal appeals court decision to affirm a trial judge’s finding the measure was unconstitutional.
Olson said they were called “strange bedfellows” and “the odd couple” as they sought to explain same-sex marriage to Americans so that, when the decision they sought came, people would say, “Yes, this is happiness.”
Boies said the bar to same-sex marriage “was causing enormous pain and damage to our fellow citizens” without justification.
While the country has far go in achieving equality in racial, sexual and other types of equality, when marriage barriers fell, many Americans were happy for the people directly affected “but also happy for the country,” he said.
In 2000, Abella told the men, “half the country loved each of you.” That was the year they were on opposite sides in Gore v. Bush, the Supreme Court case that sent George W. Bush to the White House.
Olson, 73, a Washington-based partner with Gibson Dunn & Crutcher LLP, bested Boies in that battle and later served the Bush administration as U.S. solicitor general, the federal government’s top litigator and Supreme Court advocate.
He is a law graduate of the University of California at Berkeley, once officially known as Boalt Hall.
Boies, 72, is chairman of Boies Schiller & Flexner LLP, an Armonk, New York-based law firm.
Among issues now before the high court are campaign contribution limits, affirmative action, prayer in legislative bodies and presidential recess-appointment power.
Two years ago, Boies represented the National Football League in labor litigation with suing players Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Payton Manning. Arguing for the players before a St. Louis-based federal appeals court was Olson.
While the NFL prevailed in its fight to maintain a lockout, Boies watched from the sidelines as the league’s winning argument was made by Paul D. Clement, who succeeded Olson as solicitor general in 2005 before turning to private practice.
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