Film review: The Case Against 8

Case against 8Dir. Cotner, Ben and Ryan White. The Case Against 8. HBO Documentary Films. 2015. Film. 113 min.

This moving documentary tells the inside story of how same-sex marriage became permanently legal in California in 2013, after a nearly five-year quest involving several courts, many lawyers, and two devoted long-time couples.

The battle to overturn the state’s infamous “Proposition 8,” passed by voters in 2008 and which defined marriage in no uncertain terms as between a man and a woman, brings together a legal “odd couple” of sorts, as former Solicitor General and Republican stalwart Ted Olson (who successfully argued the hanging chad case, Gore v. Bush, before the Supreme Court) teams with Democrat David Boies as counsel for the plaintiffs–the couples Kris Perry and Sandra Stier; Paul Katami and Jeffrey Zarrillo. Olson’s participation creates consternation in conservative Republican circles, though he states in this film that arguing against Prop 8 is “the most important thing I’ve ever done.”

We go behind office doors as the two principal lawyers strategize with staffs from various law firms and other supporting LGBT organizations. We also learn about the dreams and daily lives of the plaintiff couples. Individual observations from many of the case’s key players add quiet depth to the story, balancing the high-energy group planning seen throughout the bulk of the film.

In June 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court finally declares Proposition 8 unconstitutional, and we watch both California couples wed quickly once licenses become available. Even the most dedicated same-sex marriage opponent should find these ceremonies extremely powerful in their simplicity and profound significance to all concerned.

The Case Against 8 is an engrossing, ultimately joyous study of a special group’s untiring efforts to obtain justice for all their state’s citizens, a struggle bringing together arguably the strangest of legal bedfellows. It also offers an excellent supplement to Olson’s and Boies’ own detailed account of the case, 2014’s Redeeming the Dream: The Case for Marriage Equality, published by Viking. The film is highly recommended for general viewers, and especially for libraries’ LGBT and history/current events collections.

Cathy Ritchie
Acquisitions/Selection Services
Dallas (TX) Public Library

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