WASHINGTON – The lawyer who argued before the Supreme Court in favor of upholding California’s ban on gay marriage learned while he was handling the case that one of his children is gay and now is helping her plan her wedding with another woman.
Attorney Charles Cooper says his view of same-sex marriage is evolving after having argued in court that gay unions could undermine marriages between a man and a woman.
The revelation is an unexpected footnote in the years-long debate over Proposition 8, the California measure struck down by the Supreme Court last year. It is also offers a glimpse, through the eyes of one family, of the country’s rapidly shifting opinions of gay marriage, with most public polls now showing majorities in favor of allowing the unions.
Cooper learned that his stepdaughter, Ashley, was gay as the Proposition 8 case wound its way through appellate court, according to a forthcoming book about the lengthy legal battle. And with the Supreme Court ruling now behind him, Cooper cast his personal opinion on gay marriage as an evolving process.
“My views evolve on issues of this kind the same way as other people’s do, and how I view this down the road may not be the way I view it now, or how I viewed it 10 years ago,” Cooper said in journalist Jo Becker’s book “Forcing the Spring: Inside the Fight for Marriage Equality.”
Cooper’s words are reminiscent of the language President Barack Obama used throughout his first term to describe his “evolving” views on gay marriage. In 2012, Obama announced publicly that he did, in fact, support the rights of same-sex couples to marry.
Other politicians have also voiced support for same-sex marriage after learning that their own children were gay, including former Vice President Dick Cheney, whose position was at odds with President George W. Bush. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, reversed his opposition to gay marriage last year, saying that his gay son had caused him to think about the issue differently.
In June, Cooper’s daughter plans to marry her partner in Massachusetts, one of 17 states plus the District of Columbia where same-sex marriage is legal. In a statement to The Associated Press, Cooper said his family “is typical of families all across America.”
“My daughter Ashley’s path in life has led her to happiness with a lovely young woman named Casey, and our family and Casey’s family are looking forward to celebrating their marriage in just a few weeks,” he said.
California voters backed the Proposition 8 marriage ban in 2008, but the measure quickly faced legal challenges. Cooper was hired to defend the law by the organization ProtectMarriage.com, eventually taking the case all the way to the Supreme Court.
Throughout the case, Cooper kept a lower public profile than the two lawyers he argued against at the Supreme Court: David Boies and Ted Olson, the political odd-couple who were on opposite sides of the 2000 presidential recountfight but came together to add bipartisan credibility to the push for gay marriage rights.
Olson cast Cooper’s evolving views on the issue as part of a broader cultural shift.
“Every day, people around the country are looking at the marriage issue afresh and challenging their long-held assumptions,” Olson said.
As the marriage ban’s legal battle weaved through the court system, Becker writes that Cooper’s family began to consider the plaintiffs in the case, Kris Perry and Sandy Stier, as an inspiration for their daughter.
“We were so moved to hear of the Cooper family’s constant love and support of their own daughter, even as the Perry case was in full swing and Mr. Cooper was spending his days planning Prop 8’s defense,” Perry and Stier said in a statement to AP. “Some may find this contrast between public and private jarring, but in our opinion, loving an LGBT child unequivocally is the single most important thing any parent can do. We are overjoyed for Ashley and her fiancée, and we wish them the very best.”