Monday “The Case Against 8,” a documentary co-directed by Kokomo native Ben Cotner, premiered on HBO. Two days prior, I was lucky enough to be invited by Sarah Cotner, Ben’s sister, to attend a special screening of the film at Indiana University Kokomo’s Kresge Auditorium.
“We’re all pretty proud of him,” Sarah told the assembled audience of her sibling.
I interviewed Ben in January when the film debuted at the Sundance Film Festival and had been dying to see it ever since. The movie follows the years-long struggle to overturn California’s Proposition 8, which constitutionally banned same-sex marriage. Behind the Hollingsworth v. Perry case in question was the nonprofit American Foundation for Equal Rights. The AFER leadership knows a thing or two about casting, as board members include brilliant directors Rob Reiner (“The Princess Bride”) and Dustin Lance Black (“Milk.”)
Theodore B. Olson and David Boies were the perfect lawyers for the AFER to hire. Olson served in the first terms of both Ronald Reagan, as assistant attorney general, and George W. Bush, as solicitor general. We only have a George W. Bush administration to speak of because Olson successfully argued Bush v. Gore before the Supreme Court on Dec. 11, 2000. And the opposing counsel representing Al Gore? David Boies.
“Marriage is a conservative value,” Olson said in the film.
I was also interested to learn from the movie how carefully the plaintiffs were chosen. Kristin Perry and Sandra Stier, a lesbian couple, and Paul Katami and Jeffrey Zarrillo, a gay couple, were vetted as carefully as political candidates.
It would have been interesting to see the inner workings of the opposition, but the opposition obviously wouldn’t have signed off; it successfully fought the issue of cameras in the courtroom all the way to the Supreme Court. It is an extra achievement a film this engrossing was produced under such visual constraints.