Rallying Behind the Lawyers

Ted Olson (left) and David Boies adress reporters, as two of the lawsuit's plaintiffs look on.

Ted Olson (left) and David Boies adress reporters, as two of the lawsuit's plaintiffs look on.

It’s the weekend before trial, and everything is heating up.

As The New Yorker unveils its lengthy piece on the Proposition 8 federal challenge, Perry v. Schwarzenegger, and the Prop 8 proponents seek to keep the public eye off the court proceedings by appealing Judge Vaughn Walker’s ruling on cameras all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, the American Foundation for Equal Rights, AFER, announced the formation of its advisory board this evening.

AFER, formed entirely for the purpose of bringing the Perry challenge has gained a reputation — mainly through the musings of its board president, Chad Griffin — as being as out-front and aggressive a group as sensibly possible.  In The New Yorker piece, Griffin says, “Our movement has been satisfied with small steps, but we can no longer be afraid of big steps.”

But then, on the eve of litigation being run by lawyers outside the LGBT equality movement and with a board of directors with little connection to that movement before 2008, the group announced its advisory board, which, it announced in a news release, “comprises a diverse and prominent roster of civil rights leaders.”

The advisory board members are a mostly impressive list that includes some of the big supporters of the grassroots-pushed National Equality March, Cleve Jones and David Mixner, and some of the key D.C. establishment civil rights supporters, Julian Bond and Hilary Rosen.

Jones, in addition to having worked with Harvey Milk, founded the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt effort.  Mixner is a known California entity,  but became a major Clinton fund-raiser in the ’90s and has become a consistent voice for change in Washington since.  Bond is the longtime face — and voice — of the NAACP and a strong voice for LGBT equality within and outside of the group.  Rosen has been a board member and a leading force of the Human Rights Campaign for nearly two decades, having even served as the interim director for a short while in 2004.

Among the other advisory board members are Lt. Dan Choi, who has become the face of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell repeal effort over the past year; Stuart Milk, the openly gay nephew of Harvey Milk; Judy Shepard, the mother of Matthew Shepard; and Dolores Huerta, a member of the board of directors of Equality California and a longtime, much-honored activist for the rights of farm workers who co-founded the United Farm Workers of America with Cesar Chavez.

Plus, Margaret Hoover, who worked on the Bush-Cheney re-election campaign in 2004, worked as the deputy press secretary for Mario Diaz-Balart and is quoted in the AFER release as using the Cheney “freedom means freedom for everyone” line.  Huh?  That’s the best Republican Ted Olson could bring on board?  No one with, um, any civil rights record?

Hoover aside, it’s good to see AFER bringing together this group right now, on the eve of trial.  This group shows more solidarity, in my view, from all areas of the LGBT equality movement than I’ve seen in most any other organization.  It it, I think, a good sign that both grassroots and establishment leadership are coming together to show their full and unambiguous support for the Perry effort.

The full release is below the jump.

* * * * *


Ted Olson and David Boies to Open Trial Against Prop. 8 On Jan. 11; Civil Rights Leaders Julian Bond, Lt. Dan Choi, Margaret Hoover, Dolores Huerta, Cleve Jones, Stuart Milk, David Mixner, Hillary Rosen and Judy Shepard to Advise and Support Effort; For information, visit equalrightsfoundation.com

LOS ANGELES – The American Foundation for Equal Rights today announced its advisory board, which comprises a diverse and prominent roster of civil rights leaders:

•    Julian Bond
•    Lt. Dan Choi
•    Margaret Hoover
•    Dolores Huerta
•    Cleve Jones
•    Stuart Milk
•    David Mixner
•    Hillary Rosen
•    Judy Shepard

“The diversity and prominence of this advisory board underscores that Proposition 8 is an affront to every American who believes in the equal protection under the law guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution,” said Board President Chad Griffin. “These civil rights leaders have profoundly affected the lives of millions of Americans, and we are proud to be working with them to help millions more.”

The American Foundation for Equal Rights launched its groundbreaking federal court challenge to Prop. 8 in May, and brought together attorneys Theodore Olson and David Boies to argue the case, Perry v. Schwarzenegger. Olson and Boies notably represented George W. Bush and Vice President Al Gore respectively in the 2000 Supreme Court case that decided the presidency.

Advisory Board Background

•    Julian Bond is Chairman of the NAACP Board of Directors. He co-founded and was the first president of the Southern Poverty Law Center and was a founder of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). He served more than 20 years in the Georgia legislature after a 1966 U.S. Supreme Court ruling held that the Georgia House of Representatives unconstitutionally denied him the seat he had won.

“The humanity of all Americans is diminished when any group is denied rights granted to others,” Bond said. “This is not a special interest case, but one that should be of great importance to everyone who believes in the principles of equality on which this nation was founded.”

•    Lt. Dan Choi is an Army Officer and Iraq War combat veteran who graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point with degrees in Arabic and environmental engineering. Choi is a leading advocate against the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.

“Soldiers, elected officials and civil servants alike swear an oath to uphold the Constitution.      That oath should guide our leaders to reject discrimination of all kinds,” Choi said. “It is absolutely immoral that gay and lesbian soldiers can protect our country in wars overseas but return to America as second class citizens with inferior protections and recognition of their relationships and families.”

•    Margaret Hoover is a commentator on issues ranging from American politics to pop-culture.  She is a Fox News Contributor, has guest co-hosted The View on ABC, and appeared on NBC’s The Today Show, CNN’s Larry King Live, CBS’s The Early Show and PBS. Ms. Hoover served in George W. Bush’s White House, is a veteran of two Republican Presidential efforts and worked on Capitol Hill.  She is an advocate for reforming the Republican Party through renewed emphasis on the conservative principles of individual freedom, fiscal responsibility and strong national security.

“The right to marry is an individual freedom that should not be a left v. right, Democrat v. Republican issue,” Hoover said.  “Freedom means freedom for everyone.”

•    Dolores Huerta, President of the Dolores Huerta Foundation, co-founded the United Farm Workers of America with Cesar Chavez, and is a recipient of US Presidential Human Rights Award. She has led national efforts to stop the exploitation of farm workers and extend government protections and equal rights. She is a former Regent of the University of California.

“People from all over the world come to America because of its promise of freedom and equal rights,” Huerta said. “This case will move our nation closer to making that ideal more of a reality.”

•    Cleve Jones founded the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt, which today honors more than 85,000 Americans, with affiliates of the Project active in more than 50 countries around the world. He was an aide to San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk and a consultant to two California Assembly speakers.

“The consequences of discrimination are profound,” Jones said. “This trial provides an  unprecedented forum to reveal the true harm of measures like Proposition 8 without the spin and misdirection that dominate political campaigns.”

•    David Mixner’s career spans the McGovern for president campaign to those of Gary Hart and Bill Clinton. After serving as campaign manager to Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley, he led the successful fight against California’s Proposition 6, also known as the Briggs Amendment, which would have banned gays and lesbians from being teachers.

“Americans should not have to win equal rights in a political contest,” Mixner said. “The U.S.     Constitution guarantees every American fundamental rights, and when those rights are violated,     our courts exist to protect us.”

•    Stuart Milk, the openly gay nephew of the late San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk, today continues to spread his uncle’s message of hope for an America that provides equality to all.  He has been a vocal advocate for LGBT equality around the world and for civil rights in the U.S., and recently accepted from President Obama the nation’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, on behalf of Harvey Milk.

“The nation has come a long way in the three decades since my uncle Harvey Milk passionately worked to bring forth the hope and dream of equal rights right here in San Francisco, however the painful and diminishing message of inequality still remains.  We must work on several fronts and with multiple strategies in order to achieve the dream of equality that is unqualified for every American” Milk said.

•    Hillary Rosen is a Huffington Post editor-at-large and a CNN political contributor. A former Chairman and CEO of the Recording Industry Association of American (RIAA), she also is currently Managing Partner of the Brunswick Group in Washington. Rosen serves on the boards of the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, the Creative Coalition and the Center for American Progress Action Fund. She has served two U.S. Senators and has lobbied and advocated for civil rights for 25 years.

“As exemplified by our legal team, this case transcends politics.” Rosen said. “It doesn’t advance a Democratic agenda or affect a Republican one. Equal rights form the core of our nation’s character and is something that all American families need and deserve.”

•    Judy and Dennis Shepard founded the Matthew Shepard Foundation in memory of their 21-year old son, Matthew, who was murdered in an anti-gay hate crime in Wyoming in October 1998.  The Foundation seeks to “Replace Hate with Understanding, Compassion & Acceptance” through its varied educational, outreach and advocacy programs and by continuing to tell Matthew’s story.

“The AFER court case to overturn Prop. 8 will help move us toward ending dangerous discrimination that is rooted in ignorance and hatred,”  Shepard said.

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About the Author

Chris Geidner is the award-winning senior political & legal reporter at BuzzFeed and has written for Metro Weekly, The Atlantic Online, The American Prospect, Advocate.com, Salon and other publications, as well as at his blog, Law Dork. He has appeared regularly on television commenting on current affairs, including MSNBC, PBS, HLN & Current. Prior to moving to D.C. in 2009, he served as an attorney on the senior staff at the Ohio Attorney General's Office and had earlier worked for a leading Columbus law firm. An extended biography can be found here, and you can follow him on Twitter.