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Ted Olson and David Boies To Receive Award

Ted Olson and David Boies To Receive Award

Ted Olson and David Boies will be presented with the Maurice N. Eisendrath "Bearer of Light" Award tonight for working to fight marriage discrimination.

Later tonight, Theodore “Ted” Olson and David Boies will receive the Maurice N. Eisendrath "Bearer of Light" Award at the 2011 URJ Biennial. The two men are an unlikely pair: David Boies is a lifetime Democrat who has represented Michael Moore, the Democratic National Committee, and, famously, Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore in the 2000 Supreme Court case Bush v. Gore; Ted Olson, a long time Republican, represented Republican President George W. Bush in that case and served as the United States Solicitor General under President Bush, and, subsequently, Assistant Attorney General for the Bush administration.

But now Boies and Olson have come together to challenge the constitutionality of Proposition 8, the 2008 ballot initiative that repealed marriage equality in the state of California. The pair has argued that denying the fundamental right of marriage to same-sex couples is a violation of the constitutional guarantee of due process and equal protection of the law. Last year, District Court Judge Walker issued a ruling that Proposition 8 was unconstitutional. However, the case has been appealed, and the Walker opinion will not go into effect until the appeal has been resolved.

Meanwhile, over the course of the past year, the case has become increasingly complicated, as parallel cases have been filed related to issues including but not limited to: 1) the release of the video tapes of the trials, 2) the question of whether the proponents of Proposition 8 may legally defend the initiative in lieu of the state government, and 3) the question of whether the sexuality of Judge Walker, who is gay, is grounds to throw out the district court opinion. Last week, the case finally started moving forward again following a California State Supreme Court decision on the second of these questions in which the court ruled that the proponents of the measure may defend it.

Since the passage of Proposition 8 in 2008, the facts on the ground have changed as well. Last year, for the first time, a poll found that a majority of Americans support marriage equality. New York State, in part because of the work of Reform Jewish Voice, joined the list of states that provide same-sex couples the right to marry. And, at the federal level, the Obama administration has declined to defend a key part of the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act” (DOMA), which prohibits the federal government from legally recognizing same-sex couples, saying that DOMA is unconstitutional.

This progress is welcome, but we have far to go. Boies and Olson, in their fight against marriage discrimination and Proposition 8, are helping us go that much further, and that is why they will receive the Eisendrath award tonight.

Photo courtesy of the Union for Reform Judaism.

Published: 12/15/2011

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