The Case Against 8 Stars in Manhattan for HBO Premiere

Remember Prop 8, California’s ban on same-sex marriage? Well, the riveting HBO documentary, “The Case Against 8,” directed and produced by Ryan White and Ben Cotner, follows the efforts to overturn the ruling over a five-year period. Powerhouse attorneys David Boies and Ted Olsen, along with the plaintiffs, Kris Perry, Sandy Stier, Paul Katami and Jeff Zarrillo had cameras on them for five years, but they attest it was the best thing they’ve accomplished. While on the red carpet, along with guest Heather Matarazzo, the participants had lots of insights to share with

Q: Ryan, how did this all come about?

Ryan White: We filmed 600 hours of footage over the course of five years, and as legal nerds, we thought most of those minutes were interesting in the end. So it was a big challenge in the editing room to distill a massive five-year legal drama down to an hour and fifty minutes that makes sense to an audience to a legal and non-legal audience. So we wanted to go into the couples’ stories, but keep the legal story compelling.

Rob Reiner and his wife Michelle were friends of Ted Olsen’s sister-in-law and said he might be interested in this case, because he was in favor of gay marriage. Ted’s a very seasoned lawyer and incredible speaker. Seeing him in action in trial was just amazing.

Q: Ben, how did you feel about this great accomplishment?

Ben Cotner: The end of our film was bittersweet – we followed the couples for five years and it’s celebratory to see them reach their fairytale endings, but the film ends bittersweet. It says gay marriage is still illegal in 31 states. So, we hope the film can be an inspiration to people in those states to start a conversation about this and maybe after seeing the film they will rethink their position on this.

Q: Kris, what did you think when you saw the finished film?

Kris Perry: We love the film. It feels important to be part of a group that can accomplish something that important. The size and character of the team moves me. The lawyers are extraordinary and so are their expert teams, and they were really trusting in the plaintiffs and the others that supported the education piece. We weren’t just talking to a judge; we were talking to America about this.

Q: How about you, Sandy?

Sandy Stier: We had a judge for the first time asked for a trial in federal court, meaning we could present evidence. And the evidence doesn’t support discrimination.

We learned to be disciplined and clear about why we did this and that was to repeal Proposition 8. This country has a long history of fixing, and we wanted to be a part of history where things are corrected.

Q: Kris, you mention in the film feelings of not being proud or happy – basic elements that most others experience in their relationships. Can you expound on that?

KP: Those feelings of embarrassment and humiliation over not being able to do what everyone can do cause not only personal harm, but also for our children. It was harmful to them and our friends and family were very worried about us. So it wasn’t affecting Sandy and I, but also everyone who knew us and loved us and worked with us and didn’t want to see that happen anymore.

QL Sandy, what do you want audiences to take away from the film?

SS: They get to learn about our case and why discrimination is not right and not constitutional and we should all want our children to thrive and equality in our country. Hopefully this film delivers that message.

Q: Why is this film important to you, Heather?  

Heather Matarazzo: Just getting to celebrate how far we’ve come. HBO does great documentary work I support too.

The film directly affects my life, and I’m really grateful with the strides we’ve made in Philadelphia and New York, but there’s still work to do.

The film is also an opportunity to give voice to the otherwise voiceless. The most profound thing one can do is realize the gay and lesbian community are human beings and deserve to be treated as such.

QL This was an incredible case to represent, right David?

David Boies: I thought this was a great opportunity and Ted and I are close friends. We go on bike trips together, our families get together and we travel together. I knew what side he was on. And what really made it attractive was to work on this particular case. This is and has been the defining civil rights in this decade. Fifty years ago I worked in Jackson, Mississippi, which was defining civil rights at the time. But now sexual orientation is the defining civil rights issue in this country and many others.

I don’t believe anybody can watch this film and not come out rooting for these couples – wanting them to have what we have – a happy family.

Q: Ted, you’re a conservative who has always supported gay rights. Can you elaborate on your stance?  

Ted Olsen: I never felt it was right to discriminate against anyone based on their sexual preference. Discrimination over sexual orientation always seemed wrong to me.

We feel that people who see this movie and see the love the plaintiffs have for one another and see their lives, having been excluded from getting married, I believe they will walk away agreeing with us. This project has been enormously gratifying.

Q: Do you take any flak from the Republican community?

I don’t pay too much attention to that. The important thing is that because David and I are working together gives us a chance to talk to all Americans. Our goal is to convince every single person this is right.