The Case Against 8 Ben Cotner and Ryan White
Published Jun 26, 2014It may come with its share of glory and satisfaction, but changing the world is rarely an easy task. As a chronicle of the arduous journey to overturn a 2008 vote on Proposition 8 in California that prevented same-sex couples from marrying, The Case Against 8 wrings emotion from an important issue even as it's hampered by the inherent difficulties in making the litigation and bureaucracy involved all that dramatic.
Amidst the excitement of Obama's election in 2008, gays in California have their elation dissipate upon realizing that Proposition 8 has also been victorious. In a lawsuit filed by the American Foundation for Equal Rights, two carefully selected same-sex couples are the plaintiffs in challenging that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional. Heading the large team of attorneys representing them are David Boies and Ted Olson, who ironically opposed each other during the Bush-Gore Florida recount debacle back in 2000.
Leading up to the trial, the couples are put through the ringer and grilled by their attorneys to help prepare them for how invasive cross-examination could become in the courtroom. Even when it appears as if the goal has finally been accomplished, it's only a lesson in how the appeals process makes progress more of a marathon than a sprint as the case slowly gets passed all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court.
A ruling made prior to the trial that bars cameras from being in the courtroom may be only a slight blow for the plaintiffs, but it's a much more severe one for this documentary. When your whole film centres on a trial and the best you can do is re-create what happened in the courtroom by having the participants read from the transcripts, the deck has already been stacked against you. It also doesn't help that there is seemingly little opposition from the defense to the prosecution's arguments, likely because there are no valid reasons that could possibly be presented to account for the existence of Proposition 8.
But if the legal proceedings can't help but disappoint, at least the film succeeds in putting a human face on those that the vote truly impacted. The plaintiffs are two loving mothers with four sons between them and two smitten men who are smart and articulate. Some of the best moments are of the four of them sharing their stories and candidly addressing the pain and discrimination they feel on a daily basis. They all recognize that the issue is bigger than them and bravely confront the ugly hatred and bigotry with unfailing perseverance.
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