Wednesday, 8 October 2014


Leapfrog Films

In the same historic 2008 presidential election which saw the United States elect its first black president, Californians voted in favour of Proposition 8: that marriage be defined as the union between one man and one woman, thus overturning the state's previous legalization of same-sex marriage. One step forward, two steps back.

Ben Cotner and Ryan White's documentary, The Case Against 8 charts the proceeding legal battle to overturn Prop 8, a fight which will take five years to reach an outcome. That battle is led by Ted Olsen and David Boies, two attorneys who were opposing counsel in the Bush v. Gore court case (re: a recount of presidential election votes in Florida) of 2000.

Olsen is a noted conservative, and his decision to support the case to overturn Prop 8 surprised his fellow Republicans as much as it does the American Federation for Equal Rights (AFER) which is behind the case.

But The Case Against 8 is not a dry documentary about legal wheelings and dealings; Cotner and White wisely choosing to keep the emphasis on the two couples at the heart of the battle -- Kris Perry and Sandy Stier, and Jeffrey Zarrillo and Paul Katami -- and representative of same sex couples everywhere.

When California legalised same-sex marriage in May 2008, some 18,000 couples married in the ensuing months. But much to everyone's surprise, the conservative-backed Proposition 8 passed in the presidential election, and those marriages -- including those of Kris and Sandy, Jeffrey and Paul -- were rendered null and void. They, and all other gay people, were effectively told that they were less than; that they were not equal to their fellow (heterosexual) Americans in the eyes of the law. And that hurt.

The film humanises and personalises the battle for marriage equality by focusing on the two couples at the heart of the case: Kris and Sandy, two women who married and brought two sons each from their previous relationships to form a loving family (we get to see Kris's twins grow up over the course of the film); and Jeffrey and Paul, who want to start a family of their own but who want to do so in the "traditional" way -- within the bonds of marriage. You can't not be moved by either couples' plight.

Not surprisingly, no members of the opposing counsel in defense of Prop 8 appear in The Case Against 8. But that doesn't mean the film lacks perspective. Yes it has an agenda but when that agenda is equality, any opposition seems seems ignorant at best, cruel at worst.

Love is love, and you'll be hard pressed not to get a little misty-eyed throughout The Case Against 8 which proves that what is the right thing and what is the law can sometimes be one and the same, even if the latter takes a little convincing to say 'I do'.

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