It’s sort of adorable how, after attacking the American Foundation for Equal Rights’s federal Prop 8 lawsuit, and then trying to join the lawsuit, and then forcibly (by Judge Vaughn Walker) being resigned to mostly sit on the sidelines while Ted Olson and David Boies try the case on Jan. 11, Gay Inc. groups including the ACLU’s LGBT Project, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, and Lambda Legal are all pretending they’re on great terms with AFER’s Chad Griffin & Co. Which is funny, because they aren’t!
Sure, these gay rights groups all want the same thing as Griffin’s team: To have Prop 8 declared unconstitutional and pave the way for same-sex marriage rights. But ever since AFER quietly introduced the Perry v. Schwarzenegger lawsuit just days before the California Supreme Court upheld Prop 8 on May 26, all of these groups have publicly attacked the courtroom approach to securing marriage rights. That is, until they tried to join the lawsuit, only to be rebuffed by Griffin in a tersely worded open letter accusing the trio of organizations of “[having] unrelentingly and unequivocally acted to undermine this case even before it was filed,” and, as such, finding it “inconceivable that you would zealously and effectively litigate this case if you were successful in intervening.”
But in a report in California Lawyer magazine — that serves as an excellent primer to anyone just joining the Prop 8 news cycle — Chuleenan Svetvilas claims “the LGBT legal groups insist they have all moved on” from the fracas dividing the two camps.
We can tell you, with much authority, that’s not the truth. Or at least, the whole truth. Griffin & Co. remain staunchly adversarial with these groups, even though they are working with them in an administrative role, offering assistance like expert witnesses and background research. And the ACLU, LL, and NCLR are still furious they won’t be included among the possible victors if Perry ultimately succeeds. They’ve accepted their defeat, yes, but none of these civil liberties champions are comfortable being pushed to spectator status in the lawsuit — all of which could have been avoided if they at least gave Perry a modicum of respect in the beginning.
Kate Kendell, the attorney and executive director of NCLR, now insists “there’s nothing I want more than for this lawsuit to succeed. And we are committed to doing whatever we are asked to do to help ensure its success.” Adds James Esseks, co-director of the ACLU’s LGBT Project, avoiding a direct answer of whether he supports the litigation approach: “We are interested in doing whatever we can to make sure their case is as successful as possible. And we wish the plaintiffs’ legal team the best. We know they’re doing everything they can to put together a great case.”
This is a far cry from the ACLU’s LGBT Project founder Nan Hunter calling the lawsuit “reckless.” And a far cry from Lambda Legal — which helped overturn sodomy laws in Lawrence v. Texas and convince the Iowa Supreme Court, in Varnum v. Brien, to legalize gay marriage — saying, in a group Gay Inc. letter, “Rather than filing premature lawsuits, we need to talk to our friends, family and neighbors, and help them understand why denial of the freedom to marry is wrong.” (That letter, released May 27, arrived on the same day as AFER’s press conference announcing Perry, though NCLR’s legal director Shannon Price Minter says the Gay Inc. groups, including HRC, GLAD, GLAAD, and Freedom to Marry, now claims the timing was merely a coincidence, and not a direct attack on the litigation. LOLs, right?)
So it’s nice to see the ACLU, NCLR, and Lambda Legal all getting on board with Perry after the fact. But don’t think for a minute these two parties are walking into Judge Walker’s courtroom on Monday holding hands.