recent memory

Remember When HRC + ACLU Bashed the Perry Prop 8 Lawsuit?

In May 2009, when we learned Chad Griffin had lined up Ted Olson and David Boies to argue the shit out of Prop 8’s unconstitutionality, America and California’s Gay Inc. groups were furious. Now they’re so happy!

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HRC joined Freedom to Marry, ACLU, Lamda Legal, GLAAD, Victory Fund,* Log Cabin Republicans, and PFLAG in denouncing the Perry v. Schwarzenegger lawsuit, saying in an open 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.”

By June 2009 many of them had come around, or come around long enough to say they hoped the lawsuit at least didn’t go poorly. And then some of them demanded Griffin & Co. let them in on their high-profile case; he was like, “Oh hell no!” (By June 2010, HRC was talking about how it was “hopeful” our side would prevail.)

Fast-forward to today, when all these groups were bouncing off the walls.

Freedom to Marry’s Evan Wolfson: “Today’s federal ruling strikes down a cruel and unfair constitutional amendment that should never have become law and affirms that the freedom to marry belongs to every American. As the first court to strike down race restrictions on marriage said in 1948, ‘the essence of the right to marry is freedom to join in marriage with the person of one’s choice.’ There is no gay exception in the Constitution to personal choice and the right to marry, and there is no good reason to continue excluding same-sex couples from marriage. Judge Walker’s decision will be appealed and litigation will continue, but what we witnessed in the clear light of his courtroom cannot be erased.”

HRC’s Joe Solmonese: “We thank the courageous plaintiff couples, the American Foundation for Equal Rights, and attorneys Ted Olson and David Boies for their tremendous efforts leading to today’s decision and their ongoing commitment as the case moves forward on appeal. The battle for marriage equality continues, and we must all continue our work – in courthouses and statehouses, in church pews and living rooms – until equality is reality for LGBT people and our families everywhere.”

ACLU LGBT Project’s James Esseks: “Today’s decision is a huge victory for the LGBT people of America. For the first time, a federal court has conducted a trial and found that there is absolutely no reason to deny same-sex couples the fairness and dignity of marriage. At the same time, we know that this is not the end. In order to give this case the best possible chance of success as it moves through the appeals courts, we need to show that America is ready for same-sex couples to marry by continuing to seek marriage and other relationship protections in states across the country. It’s simply not fair, and not legal, to continue to exclude committed same-sex couples from marriage.”

Now it’s not like these groups don’t have a right to be happy. They do. And they should! But if everybody took their advice last year — and opted not for a federal lawsuit, but a continued piecemeal strategy that’s an exercise in two steps forward, one-to-three steps back — we’d be here in August 2010 still with our tails between our legs. And while Perry has a long way and likely several years to go before today’s ruling becomes the law of the land, it is unarguably the most significant victory in the history of the marriage equality battle. And HRC, an organization devoted to securing federal equality, didn’t have a single hand in it.

These Gay Inc. groups proved that while they remain sometimes useful, they are not necessary to securing LGBT rights. That is a shift change only one year ago might have seemed unthinkable.

* We erroneously reported the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund joined the letter. They have not. We regret the error.