On the eve of Barack Obama’s 2008 election, many liberal Californians found their euphoria cooled by the passing of Proposition 8, banning same-sex marriage in the state. They did what Californians often do: got organized, found some sympathetic Hollywood money and put on a brilliant legal show, charted here over five years of testimony, appeals, cheers and tears.
HBO’s passionate, pro-gay The Case Against 8 has a built-in audience, the one now watching The Normal Heart. But it deserves wider viewership, especially for its thriller of a plot development: the surprising recruitment to the cause of attorney Theodore Olson, the right-winger who successfully argued Dubya into the White House. As Olson puts it plainly: “Marriage is a conservative value.” Teaming with his Bush v. Gore opponent, David Boies, and a pair of courageous same-sex couples, they begin their lengthy preparations.
The documentary is strongest during these conference-room brainstorms, similar to those of a political campaign. (It could have used more of Boies’s witness-demolishing courtroom eloquence.) The draw here is watching a careful process unfold, regardless of the outcome.
Follow Joshua Rothkopf on Twitter: @joshrothkopf