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By Jessie Leo
DIFF Writer

ON SCREEN
THE CASE AGAINST 8
Wednesday, April 9 @ Angelika
Thursday, April 10 @ Angelika

Warning: The next sentence is not a rhetorical question. “What would happen if gay people were allowed to marry?” A seemingly simply question, and yet we remain a nation torn over this issue. The very notion has started fights, ignited protests, and even been the cause for the passage of new laws. Laws like Proposition 8, which was passed in 2008, banning gay marriage in California. A law that might still be in effect today, if it had not been for the bravery and determination of an incredible group of Californians. THE CASE AGAINST 8, directed by Ben Cotner and Ryan White, showcases the emotional journey that led to the overturning of the controversial ban.

California has always been viewed as an especially open and accepting state. So, in 2008, when Proposition 8 was passed, it was truly shocking. Aforementioned filmmakers, Cotner and White, were among those directly affected. In their words, “We are both gay Californians, so the passage of Prop 8 in November 2008 was a massive setback that not a lot of people saw coming. It served as a huge wake up call that so much work still had to be done to shift public opinion. We never expected to be documenting the marriage equality movement so closely, but we jumped at the opportunity when it arose and feel so grateful to have given such close access to the five-year process.”

case againstAnd what a process it was. The film begins by chronicling the promise and hope that came with President Obama’s 2008 election. It was a time of huge change in the United States and a monumental moment in history as the first black president was sworn into office. Right on the heels of this joyous occasion, however, was the passing of Proposition 8, which after all the hope of the groundbreaking presidential election, felt even more like a punch in the gut to all the US citizens who believed that their country had been moving towards a more progressive future. It is at this time that the real battle for equality begins, and the incredible team of warriors is introduced in the film.

This team, this group of hard-working, fiercely determined individuals is one of the many things that made this documentary so fascinating. The most surprising member of this team was Ted Olson. Most know him as the Conservative, Republican lawyer who represented George W. Bush in the Bush vs. Gore court case, ending the recount for the 2000 presidential election and effectively putting Bush in the White House. No one ever expected that this same man would advocate for same-sex marriage. But he did. And he did so with an incredible passion.

In the film, he very eloquently shares why other conservatives like him should support the right to marry for all people, when he says, “Marriage is a conservative value. Two people who love one another and want to come together and live in a stable relationship, to become part of a family and part of a neighborhood and part of the economy. We should want people to come together in marriage.” Some people were so skeptical of Ted Olson, however, that they actually feared he might attempt to sabotage the fight for marriage equality from the inside.

But, according to directors Ben Cotner and Ryan White, “Once you’ve had one conversation with Ted Olson, it would be hard to suspect him of sabotage. There are few people as warm and genuine as he is.”

Screen Shot 2014-04-09 at 1.32.33 AMOlson’s former courtroom foe in the Bush vs. Gore case, David Boies, also joins the team, and their camaraderie both in and out of the courtroom is a true joy to watch throughout the film. Regardless of whatever other differing political opinions they may have, these two men came together in the fight for marriage equality and took the courts by storm.

Equally important to this case as the lawyers, were the two gay couples that were selected through an intense vetting process to represent, essentially, the entire gay community of California. These brave individuals were Jeff Zarrillo and Paul Katami, along with Sandy Stier and Kris Perry. THE CASE AGAINST 8 does a beautiful job of highlighting these couples’ lives and personalities without making them feel like pawns. Throughout the film, the audience, regardless of sexual orientation, can identify with these people, because, at the end of the day, they are simply couples in love, who want to say “I Do” to their partners.

THE CASE AGAINST 8 has so far enjoyed much well-deserved success, winning the Documentary Directing Award at Sundance, as well as being crowned an Audience Award Winner at SXSW. Furthermore, the film will be hitting theatres on June 6th and premiering on HBO on June 23rd, giving people all over the world a chance to be inspired by this incredible story.

In the words of the spirited filmmakers, “The opportunity to witness the work of this group of people and to be able to share their story with the rest of the world is a privilege. Just getting to sit in the courtroom and hear the arguments was an experience that changed us in really profound ways. There were so many twists and turns and it is quite astonishing that each of those twists resulted in the case being the first of its kind to reach the Supreme Court. That was a fairy tale for us, realizing each day that history was unfolding right in front of us and in front of our cameras.”

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