A Fight For Credit In The Marriage Equality Movement

WASHINGTON — Few moments in the marriage equality movement have provoked more controversy than the 2009 decision of Chad Griffin to fight California’s Proposition 8 in federal court — and to enlist Ted Olson, a key official of the George W. Bush administration, to do so.

Now that the legal bill behind that legal effort has been revealed to be more than $6 million, some are asking questions about the steep fee for the lawyers in the Prop 8 case — especially as a slate of new marriage cases advance through the courts and lawyers jockey for position to argue the one that they expect will ultimately deliver marriage equality to all 50 states.

The debate over the Prop 8 price tag is just one part of a much larger battle within the legal world of LGBT rights: the fight for credit.

Since Griffin, now the head of the Human Rights Campaign, made the decision to go up against Prop 8 five years ago, the landscape for marriage equality has changed dramatically. Griffin, the campaign he put together — the American Foundation for Equal Rights (AFER) — and the lawyers he recruited — Olson and David Boies — are in the midst of a public relations campaign to claim a big slice of the credit for that change. While the fight for credit continues, especially with the forthcoming publication of Jo Becker’s book looking at the past five years of the marriage fight, the questions about the costs of the case have percolated under the surface.

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