The Case Against 8 (Ben Cotner, Rob Reiner & Ryan White, 2014)
Proposition 8 is a heinous constitutional amendment passed in 2008 that declared that “only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognised in California”, which nullified all same-sex marriages that had previously occurred in the state. The Case Against 8 documents the battle of the good guys – the legal team that sought to overturn this shitty amendment. Though they had a win in 2010 when Prop 8 was found unconstitutional, they continued to fight against numerous appeals until 2013 when the Supreme Court finally ruled in their favour, and same-sex marriages were able to resume.
A doco on marriage equality is likely to elicit many emotions, and I felt ALL the feels. Firstly, I felt absolutely incredulous at the arguments put forward by the Prop 8 proponents, which included the idea that there would be a general decay of society if same sex marriage were to be legalised, and won’t someone PLEASE think of the children! The main argument was that marriage should only be between a man and a woman because the point of marriage is to procreate (well by that logic we might as well ban infertile heterosexual couples from marriage too then). That SO MANY PEOPLE would dedicate their time and money to such a hateful cause was incomprehensible. The eagerness to strip away a minority group’s civil rights is downright shameful.
I felt disgusted. Not only towards the lawyers defending Prop 8, but by the people who called the plaintiffs’ homes at 4am to leave abusive messages about how sick they were to be seeking equality. I was disgusted by the picketers who stood outside the Supreme Court waving their hateful banners around, with some of them actually suggesting that they were doing so in the name of God. Yeah, because I’m sure God would be so proud of you dedicating your lives to preaching hatred, rather than tolerance.
But it wasn’t all negative. I also felt inspired. Inspired by the two couples – Kristin Perry and Sandra Stier, and Paul Katami and Jeff Zarrillo, who were the faces of the case. Who endured public backlash from the haters and who willingly participated in an exhausting emotional experience. But even more so, I was inspired by the lawyers. Ted Olson headed the team, which is a shock in itself, as Olson is a known conservative. A Republican. GEORGE BUSH’S LAWYER. The guy who contested Bush vs. Gore and won, effectively making Bush president. It’s nothing short of remarkable. His involvement caused much controversy, but he more than proved himself to be a hell of a guy. He was supported by one-time nemesis (and Al Gore’s lawyer), David Boies, and their collaboration was simply brilliant. Besides these two, there were so many more individuals involved in the good fight, and the magnitude of the work they all did is phenomenal.
I was obviously touched. Touched when they won the first round. Touched when they won the final hurdle. Touched when Kris and Sandra, and Paul and Jeff FINALLY GOT MARRIED. It made me choke up. I was also hopeful. Hopeful that there is such a thing as progress.
But ultimately, I was disappointed. Disappointed that we live in a world where homophobia is still rife. Disappointed to read the final titles that stated same-sex marriage is still yet to be legalised in 33 US states (however, after a progressive year, I believe this is now down to 21 or 22). Disappointed that a 54% approval rate of same-sex marriage is the highest it’s ever been, which means half of America are still extremely close-minded. And disappointed that the Supreme Court ruling was so close, with only five of nine supposedly unbiased judges making the right decision. And finally, I am ashamed to live in a country which is even more backwards than America on this issue. Lift your game Australia, your homophobia is showing.
It’s difficult to discuss this documentary beyond all the emotions it stirs up. Beyond the content, it was a well-made film, with so much insight into the legal process. The methods utilised by the legal team were extremely impressive, and the way they tore down the credibility of the opposition’s supposed ‘experts’ was solid. The only technical disappointment was out of the filmmakers’ control, and that is the lack of court footage. Though the 2010 case was initially going to be telecast live, this was later blocked by the Supreme Court. This means the film relies on transcripts that are read aloud after the fact. Audio recordings are used for later court proceedings. I would have loved to have seen the passionate arguments being made in the actual courtroom, and the reactions of all involved. As pathetic as it sounds, it made me hope for a Hollywood portrayal. My only other quibble is that there was one part near the start about Obama being elected which I don’t think was explained properly. This lost me a bit, but it didn’t affect my overall enjoyment of the film.
The Case Against 8 will make you feel. It will make you angry, but it will also make you proud (hopefully at the right parts – I assume no homophobes will be watching, though they could definitely learn a thing or two from this film). We are slowly but surely making progress. I can’t wait for the day when everyone looks back at a time where people were denied equal rights because of their sexual orientation and just thinks: WTF? Hopefully that’s sooner rather than later.