A new HBO movie, The Case Against 8, details why the fight against Prop 8 in California was so important to all of America. Currently on limited release in several cities, the film airs on HBO on June 23 at 9 pm. More than 600 hours of film were shot for the documentary, which follows two same-sex couples and the attorneys who fought for them through the three-year court battle to overturn Prop 8.
Proposition 8, which was put on the ballot in 2008 after the California Supreme Court ruled “that gay couples had a right to marry,” said that the state “recognized marriage as something only between a man and a woman.” Before the election, Lorri Jean, head of the Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Center in 2008, asserted that “no one can underestimate the impact of the largest state in the nation treating all of its citizens equally.”
Both sides of the Prop 8 campaigns fought bitterly with television ads, telemarketing, boycotts, rallies and intense fundraising. After early polls indicated that a majority of the state’s populace was against Prop 8, in the final election results the proposition passed by a small margin of 52.3 percent, wounding the LGBT community. Lawsuits fighting Prop 8 were immediately filed in California by scores of same-sex couples; some of these early legal skirmishes are referred to in the HBO movie.
Nearly eighteen thousand same-sex couples in the state married before Proposition 8 was passed, and the ‘No on 8’ side vowed not to give up. In 2009, two prominent attorneys, Ted Olson and David Boies, came together to fight to demolish Proposition 8. These two lawyers gained fame in 2000 by being on opposite sides of the Bush v. Gore court case that decided that year’s election. Olson stated later that “he took the case because marriage is a conservative value.” Olson and Boies began filing motions against the state in mid-2009.
The Case Against 8, directed and produced by Ben Cotner and Ryan White, premiered at the 2014 Sundance Festival, winning a directing award and plenty of attention. The extensive footage captured the behind-the-scene details of the Perry v. Schwarzenegger case and shows the journey of two same-sex couples and the attorneys who fought for them. The film took five years to make. During that time, the fight for marriage equality continued until the US Supreme Court ruled in June, 2013 that the statute ran counter to the US Constitution. The right of same-sex couples to marry in the state of California was restored.
Sheila Nevins, president of HBO Documentary Films said: “We feel it’s important to bring the story of the men and women behind this roller-coaster battle to screens across the country, and we’re extremely proud to bring attention to a fundamental civil rights issue that faces the country today.”
Although it is rare for a documentary to have a theatrical release, HBO opened the film in New York and Los Angeles on June 6. The list of opening cities will be expanded on June 13 before the movie is aired on June 23. The film garnered a huge amount of attention from the beginning when dozens of the lawyers who worked the Perry v. Schwarzenegger case vowed to attend the Sundance premiere. Early support also came from the American Foundation for Equal Rights, Rob Reiner, and Paul Cappuccio, the general counsel at HBO’s parent company, Time Warner.
The HBO movie is likely to engage viewers across the country: Since the Supreme Court struck down California’s Prop 8 on June 26, 2013, more than fifty lawsuits have been filed challenging similar marriage bans in other states.
By Jenny Hansen