MSNBC host Rachel Maddow interviewed the Perry v. Brown litigators David Boies and Theodore B. Olson as the keynote of “Making Constitutional Change: The Past, Present, and Future Role of Perry v. Brown” held on Friday at the NYU School of Law.
The symposium also featured numerous panels over the course of two days and a reading of the play “8,” which Oscar-winning screenwriter Dustin Lance Black wrote about Proposition 8. Proposition 8 was a California ballot proposition and a state constitutional amendment passed November 2008 that stated only marriage between a man and a woman was valid or recognized in California.
“The symposium, like a happy marriage, I suppose, is the result of a lot of love and collaboration,” said Mateya Kelley, a symposium editor. “Every participant in the event, including the keynoters, organizers and staged-reading performers, is volunteering his or her time.”
In addition to the keynote, the symposium hosted panels dealing with various questions on how Perry v. Brown has affected the LGBTQ community and future marriage equality litigation.
Not only is the case historic for any student of social change, says Kelley, but it is of particular interest to NYU.
Kelley explained that the symposium harked back to another event the law school held in 1968 titled, “Sex, Politics and the Law: Lesbians and Gay Men Take the Offensive,” which addressed the Supreme Court case Bowers v. Hardwick. In this case, the court upheld the constitutionality of a Georgia law criminalizing sodomy, proving NYU Law has always been involved in sexual orientation equality.
“The law school has been at the forefront since at least 1978 when it was the first U.S. law school to deny career services to employers who discriminated on the basis of sexual orientation,” Kelley said.
Perry v. Brown might also be on its way to the Supreme Court, as the Prop. 8 supporters who lost in the 9th Circuit have petitioned to have the case heard this year.
Gallatin junior Joe Ehrman-Dupre stated that it is important for NYU to give forum to these types of discussions.
“I personally believe in the fight for marriage equality,” Ehrman-Dupre said. “Same-sex marriage will allow for non-normative deemed relationships and sexuality to become more visible in society. I personally look forward to getting married myself.”
As the keynote speaker, Maddow prefaced by apologizing to the audience for not being a lawyer, thus asking what she considered silly questions to better understand the case. This straightforward approach allowed the litigators to explain what they saw as important components of their work.
Olson explained how he was able to reconcile his belief in marriage equality with his Republican values, saying that “building a family [and] creating a stable home, is a
Boies also discussed the underlying motivations behind the suit.
“We put prejudice and fear on trial, and prejudice and fear lost,” he said.
Both Boies and Olson spoke of the changing attitudes toward same-sex marriage, saying the way to achieve progress is to create dialogue.
“We are afraid of losing, but we’re confident in the argument we’re making,” Olson said. “[Marriage equality] is right for America, just plain morally right.”
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, Oct. 9 print edition. Margaret Eby is a contributing writer. Email her at email@example.com.
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