There are many tales being told in “The Case Against 8,” Ben Cotner and Ryan White's riveting new documentary about one of the lawsuits which changed the course of LGBT history by opening the marriage equality floodgates.
There's the story of Ted Olson and David Boies, who became good friends as they fought against each other in court during the 2000 Florida recount debacle, which resulted in the George W. Bush Presidency. One is a staunch liberal, the other an archconservative. The two attorneys became unlikely allies in the gay rights battle of the century.
There's the story of Kris Perry and Sandy Stier, lesbian moms in love. When the cameras visit their Berkeley, Calif, home, we meet two "soccer" moms who've given their four kids, and each other, a wonderful, and very traditional life.
There's also the tale of Paul Katami and Jeff Zarrillo, two sweet guys from Los Angeles who happen to love each other. They yearn for a family, which includes children. They'll have the kids, they say, after they can legally wed.
Then there's the remarkable turnaround of David Blankenhorn, founder of The Institute For American Values, a conservative think tank. A key witness for the anti-marriage advocates, Blankenhorn now supports marriage equality — he explains why in a fascinating interview shot for the film.
The filmmakers followed these remarkable individuals throughout the long, arduous process of challenging the constitutionality of Proposition 8, California's 2008 voter approved ban on same-sex marriage. We see the two couples rehearsing for court appearances. We hear testimony from both sides, from the couples who want nothing more than to be equal members of society, and from the Pro-Prop 8 side, who admit in court that they cannot explain how allowing same sex couples to legally wed will harm "traditional" couples.
So many issues are raised as the film progresses. The filmmakers offer no commentary of their own, but rather let their subjects and the events surrounding them speak for themselves. Viewers are given much to think about as the lawsuit works it's way from the lower courts all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
It becomes clear, as the plaintiffs show up for trial, that those who support Prop 8 have little concern for "saving the American family." As their signage plainly indicates, they hate gay people and have no other motivation for their positions.
It's also mentioned, albeit briefly, that gay advocacy groups were part of the problem. They offered no assistance to the plaintiffs or attorneys, and in fact actively opposed the lawsuit. "We spent more time fighting gay organizations than we did fighting our opponents," said one of the assisting attorneys.
“The Case Against 8” is also a love story. It's a tale of two star crossed gay couples who are clearly meant to be with one another, and who just want the same rights as their friends, family and neighbors. Watching them share their stories as they fight tears might inspire viewers to cry along with them.
What they and their attorneys achieved is inspiring.
“The Case Against 8” premieres on HBO at 9 p.m. on June 23. It will also be available at HBO on Demand.