Last week, in the film column, we published excerpts from an Interview with Rob Reiner and Madeline Carroll about their new film “Flipped.” At the end of that interview, at a time when Judge Walker’s ruling was still pending, I was able to ask Reiner about his involvement with the Federal challenge to Proposition 8.
You have been quite active in the fight against Proposition 8. How do you feel about the way that’s going now? Do you approach something like this from a legal perspective with an outrage about the legality of the situation? Or is it a much clearer emotional response for you, that it’s a social outrage that we should be telling people who they can and can’t love and how they should live their lives?
The second, the latter. To me this is a civil rights issue. There is one group of people in our society that is treated less than other groups. We have civil rights laws that protect women that protect minorities. Yet when it comes to this one group of people, gay and lesbian people, they are not viewed or treated with equality. So to me this is the last piece of the civil rights puzzle. Until we look at every person in this society and treat them all equally, with all equal dignity and respect we are not a civil society.
So I look at it from that perspective and when Proposition 8 passed I had been supportive of defeating Proposition 8. When it passed I was sitting with a friend of mine, who is also a political advisor and I’ve known him since he was 19 years old, he worked in the Clinton White House – his name is Chad Griffin. Chad and I, and my wife Michele and Chad’s partner Kristina Schake, were sitting around and thinking what could we do – I mean, this is a terrible thing to do. The California Supreme Court had already ruled that it was unconstitutional to not allow gays to get married.
Then a group of Mormons, heavily funded, decided that they were going to change the California Constitution because the only way that gays could be denied marital privileges is if you change the Constitution. So they put an initiative on the ballot and it narrowly passed and I thought this is not right. This is just not right. We tried to think what is the next step, what could we do – is there another lawsuit, is there another initiative, is there another legal recourse? That’s when we came up with the strategy of a federal lawsuit because we felt that the California law runs afoul of the US constitution. And when we heard from a friend that Ted Olsen might be interested in taking this on, I thought “Wow, that’s a political home run” because this guy is a died-in-the-wool conservative – for him to argue very passionately, and he is very passionate about this, and he suggested David Boies and we hired him as well, to have the two guys who opposed each other on Bush vs. Gore unite on this issue, to me sends a tremendous message.
Now where we stand: We filed a case, we had our trial here in San Francisco in the district court. The final arguments have been made and we’re waiting for the judge’s ruling (Reiner side won in Judge Vaughn Walker’s Aug. 4 ruling). We feel very optimistic that that he will rule in our favor. We put on an incredible case – we actually used their witnesses against them. David Boies was just magnificent in taking their witnesses and basically making our case. So then, after this ruling, one way or another, it will go onto the Ninth circuit and then onto the Supreme Court. It’ll be a haul, but we feel like this is a landmark case along the lines of Brown vs. The Board of Education.
One last question – we’re doing this interview in the Governor’s Suite – is that an omen?
Is this what this is? Is this the Governor’s Suite? I had no idea! But you know Arnold Schwarzenegger is in favor of what we’re doing. He’s in favor of gay marriage, and Attorney General Brown is also in favor.
I wondered if you were interested in following Arnold Schwarzenegger and Ronald Reagan into a suite at the Hyatt, because apparently that’s the Governor’s Mansion.
Note: Chad Griffin is the board president and Rob Reiner, Michele Reiner, and Kristina Schake are board members of the American Foundation for Equal Rights. Griffin is described on the Foundation’s website as the youngest staffer ever to serve in the West Wing of the White House and as an executive producer of the recent film “Outrage.” Other board members include screenwriter Dustin Lance Black (“Milk,” “Big Love”) and producer Bruce Cohen (“Milk,” “American Beauty”). More information about the Foundation can be found at www.equalrightsfoundation.org.