Law School Dean Hosts Early Screening of HBO Documentary on Same-Sex Marriage

Harvard Law School Dean Martha L. Minow hosted an early screening of “The Case Against 8,” an HBO documentary about the appeal of California’s now overturned ban on same-sex marriage, on Tuesday night at the Law School.

The documentary, which will begin playing in theaters in June, follows the legal team and the two homosexual couples who appealed Proposition 8, a 2008 referendum that defined marriage as a union between a man and a woman. Theodore B. Olson, a lead lawyer on the case and the former solicitor general of the United States during George W. Bush’s first term, attended the event and discussed the process of overturning the proposition.

Before the film screening began, Minow praised the film and the legal work it documented.

“As a teacher of family law for years, I used to teach this subject [and] courts would reach for dictionaries—that’s how they would resolve the subject,” Minow said. “You’ll see much more interesting lawyering happen here.”

Two former adversaries united to form the case’s legal team. Olson, widely known as a conservative, joined the legal team of David Boies, who had previously argued against and lost to Olson in the landmark Supreme Court case of Bush v. Gore. Olson has argued 60 cases before the Supreme Court, including the controversial Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission case.

The unlikely team joined the American Foundation of Equal Rights and two same sex couples to file an appeal in California in May 2009, claiming that it is unconstitutional to take away an individual’s right to marriage. The plaintiffs were Kristin Perry and Sandra Stier, whose previously legal marriage was deemed void in California after the passing of Proposition 8, and partners Paul Katami and Jeffrey Zarrillo.

After a series of appeals, the Supreme Court ruled in their favor on June 26th, 2013, striking down Proposition 8.

“I feel very strongly that conservatives believe in liberty and freedom and association and privacy and the building of families and the building of relationships,” Olson said. “At the end of the day, those are American values.”

Paul T. Cappuccio, a Law School graduate and the general counsel of Time Warner Inc., also answered questions and discussed HBO’s effort to make this film readily available to the public, which is unusual for the network.

The audience was full of law students, some of whom made time for the event despite impending final exams.

“It was something that we didn’t want to miss, even though its finals crunch time,” said third-year law student Chelsea P. Handler. “You’ve seen a lot about the case on television, but you don’t really see the emotions behind it, and so I thought it was a unique perspective.”

The documentary will begin playing in select theaters on June 6th and will air on HBO beginning on June 23rd.

—Staff writer Tyler S. Olkowski can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @OlkowskiTyler.

—Contributing writer Rachel H. Star can be reached at


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