A strategic partnership between two lions of American jurisprudence, once determined courtroom adversaries, was crucial to the successful protection of marriage equality in the state of California Wednesday.
David Boies, a Clinton Democrat and Ted Olson, a Bush Republican, battled each other in court as attorneys on opposite sides of Bush vs. Gore, the deeply controversial case that decided the outcome of the 2000 U.S. presidential election. But Olson, George W. Bush’s first U.S. solicitor, and Boies, the prominent attorney who represented Al Gore, came together to challenge California’s ban on same-sex marriage in federal court. The odd couple prevailed in their effort when the Supreme Court declined to overturn a lower-court’s 2010 ruling that struck down Proposition 8, thus clearing the way for same-sex marriage in the state.
“Our plaintiffs now get to go back to California and together, with every other citizen of California, marry the person they love,” Boies said outside the court after the ruling was announced.
Olson and Boies’s victory comes more than 12 years after the Supreme Court ruled, 5-4, in favor of Bush in the contested 2000 presidential election.”Those of you who were in court today saw why I like it a lot better when this guy is on my side as opposed to against me,” Boies told reporters in March after oral arguments before the Court.
Olson, a California native, had reached out to Boies years earlier after the American Foundation for Equal Rights had asked him to help challenge Proposition 8. The GOP superlawyer had expected from the start for the case to go to the Supreme Court, and he thought a bipartisan legal team would help depoliticize the case for same-sex marriage—not only before the justices, but also the American public.
“I felt it was important that it not be about Democrats or Republicans or conservatives or liberals,” Olson told the Kentucky Bar Association at an event last week. “The fact [the partnership] was unusual was a fabulous advantage. We felt right from the beginning that we wanted to win in court, but we wanted to win in the court of public opinion as well.”
Boies, a former Senate staff member, had previously helped Clinton’s Justice Department in its famous antitrust suit against Microsoft and represented the Democratic National Committee in the 1980s. But he’s also worked for a slew of high-profile corporate clients as the chair of his own law firm, Boies, Schiller, and Flexner.
Olson likewise has a long history of working for Republicans as a veteran of both the Reagan and Bush administrations. But his partnership with Boies isn’t his first bipartisan alliance: In 2006, he married Lady Olson, a lifelong Democrat who’s enthusiastically supported Olson’s work with Boies on gay marriage.
“I’ve known people who were gay and lesbian, and they are entitled to, in my judgment, the same degree of happiness – or unhappiness – as the rest of us,” Olson said last week.