The Perry backstory: California scheming

by on August 17, 2009  •  In Constitutional law

The origins of the big kahuna of lgbt litigation – Perry v. Schwzenegger – are very LA. So what better place to get the backstory than an article in Variety?  Excerpts follow –

This suit is funded and directed by a newly formed group, the American Foundation for Equal Rights, that boasts Rob Reiner, Bruce Cohen and Dustin Lance Black among its board. The group is spearheaded by Chad Griffin, who worked in the Clinton White House in the 1990s before setting up an industry-centric political consultancy firm in L.A. …

In a strongly worded letter to the [lgbt groups seeking to intervene] made public in July, Griffin charged that the groups had "unrelentingly and unequivocally acted to  undermine this case even before it was filed. In light of this, it is inconceivable that you would zealously and effectively litigate this case if you were successful in intervening."

While both sides are looking to Judge Walker for some kind of resolution [on who will control the litigation], the case reflects the tensions that have arisen following the passage of Proposition 8, and the anxiety among some Hollywood activists to take a different approach, even on their own.

Even before the election, some entertainment figures were growing nervous about campaign strategy. For instance, rather than channeling funds through the campaign, Ellen DeGeneres bought $100,000 worth of ad time on her own to run a spot against Prop. 8.

At the time, showbiz was accused of not doing enough, as many were   focused on the presidential race. But Griffin (as a consultant to the No on 8 campaign) helped secure contributions from Brad Pitt, Steven Spielberg and others. Along with Cohen, he was a central organizer of an event at the home of Ron Burkle that raised about $4 million, and produced an ad featuring Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.). As the election neared, the polls narrowed, but they still fell short.

After Prop. 8 was passed, and protesters and activists called for a new ballot initiative in 2010, Griffin sought a different approach: a federal suit. After consulting legal and political experts and industry donors, including Reiner and Cohen, he was tipped that Olson was supportive of same-sex marriage rights.

They met in November, and Boies was approached about the case the   following month. It was a coup to land Olson and Boies, lawyers who argued on opposite sides of Bush vs. Gore, pursuing the same goal. Their effort could prove a much more expeditious way of securing same-sex marriage than pursuing it state-by-state in courts or through the electoral process.

"People's constitutional rights should never be subject to a popularity contest at the ballot box," Griffin says. He also has concerns about timing. He notes that with recent poll numbers in support of same-sex marriage below 50%, a campaign would need about $40 million to $60 million to succeed. "Once all necessary ingredients are in place, I believe this campaign could cross the 50% threshold," he says. "I suspect that is not in 2010."

The Griffin group and the trio of orgs are not the only ones with disagreements about how to forge ahead. The Courage Campaign, a  progressive org led by Rick Jacobs, is going ahead with plans to pursue an initiative next year. However, Equality California, one of the leaders in the fight against Prop. 8 last year, announced that it would wait longer to pursue an initiative in 2012. It cited current polling numbers and fund-raising difficulties. …


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