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Prop 8 attorney helping Romney campaign with debate prep

Olson’s assistance criticized as ‘completely counter’ to his marriage equality goals



Ted Olson speaks at the Cato Institute

Former U.S. Solicitor General Ted Olson (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

A lead attorney in the federal lawsuit against California’s Proposition 8 is facing criticism from a gay Democratic group for assisting the Romney campaign with debate preparation despite the ticket’s support for policies that would undo his work against the same-sex marriage ban.

Ted Olson, who’s been litigating against Prop 8 on behalf of the American Foundation for Equal Rights, is set to play the role of Vice President Joseph Biden in debate practice against Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan. Buzzfeed and Politico reported the news Saturday morning, which was confirmed to the Washington Blade by Brendan Buck, a Ryan spokesperson working on the Romney campaign.

“Joe Biden has been in elected office for more than 40 years,” Buck said. “There are few people in politics with more experience debating the issues than Joe Biden, so we are taking this process seriously. Mr. Olson is one of the most skilled, intelligent, and successful litigators in America– just the kind of opponent needed to prepare the congressman for Mr. Biden.”

Buck said Olson will receive no compensation from the Romney campaign for his role impersonating Biden as part of debate preparation.

But Olson’s involvement with the Romney campaign came to the consternation of one LGBT group aligned with the Democratic Party.

Jerame Davis, executive director of the National Stonewall Democrats, said Olson’s assistance to the Romney campaign demonstrates the former solicitor general is “subject to the same cognitive dissonance” as other conservative who vote against their own interests in favor of ideological purity.

“After he has spent as much time, money, and reputation on overturning Prop 8 as he has, it’s shocking to learn that Ted Olson would lift a finger to help the Romney-Ryan ticket during debate prep,” Davis said. “The Romney-Ryan ticket stands completely counter to the goals of AFER and Ted Olson’s stated belief that Prop 8 should be overturned. I have always been concerned that the architect of Bush v. Gore was one of the lead attorney’s in the fight to overturn Prop 8, but I honestly never expected Olson to so blatantly contradict his own argument by supporting a ticket that would stand squarely in opposition to what he calls one of the most important cases of his career.”

Olson, who served as U.S. solicitor general under former President George W. Bush, isn’t a stranger to advocating on behalf of Republican presidential candidates. Olson was the lead attorney representing the Bush candidacy in Bush v. Gore, the lawsuit that helped Bush win his first term in the White House. David Boies, who’s partnering with Olson in the Prop 8 lawsuit, represented then-Democratic presidential nominee Al Gore in the lawsuit.

Since his time with the Bush administration, Olson has come out in favor of marriage equality — calling his work against Prop 8 the “highlight of my life” — and has spoken before LGBT groups about his support for same-sex marriage. As a result of the litigation that Olson has spearheaded, a U.S. district court in California and the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals have ruled against California’s marriage ban. On September 20, Olson is set to be a keynote speaker at the National Log Cabin Republicans “Spirit of Lincoln” dinner in D.C.

Olson’s assistance with the Romney campaign is noteworthy because both Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and Ryan support policies that would contravene the attorney’s work against Proposition 8. The two candidates backs a U.S. constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage throughout the country. In 2008, Romney donated $10,000 through a political action committee to the anti-gay National Organization for Marriage as part of efforts to pass the Prop 8 at the ballot.

An AFER spokesperson deferred to the Romney campaign for questions about why Olson was helping the Republican ticket even though the candidates back policies that directly conflict with the work of the organization. The Human Rights Campaign, which is now headed by AFER board member Chad Griffin, didn’t immediately respond to a request to comment even though HRC has endorsed President Obama in the presidential election.

Other LGBT and progressive groups had mixed reactions.

Rick Jacobs, chair of the progressive grassroots group the Courage Campaign, said he hopes Olson spends part of his time working with the Romney campaign to bring them to the other side on the issue of marriage equality.

“You would be hard pressed to find a Republican that has done more to advance the cause of marriage equality than Ted Olson,” Jacobs said. “You would be also hard pressed to find Republicans who would do more to rollback hard fought advances in LGBT rights than Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan. I have known Ted for more than 25 years and I know his commitment to equality is real and unshakable. I hope he spends some of the hours he will spend with Congressman Ryan educating him that this is the civil rights issue of our time and that he and his running mate stand squarely on the wrong side of history.”

Evan Wolfson, executive director of Freedom to Marry, responded to the news by saying he appreciates Olson’s work against Prop 8, but prefers Olson when takes on roles that are more favorable to marriage equality.

“It’s been striking, and effective, that someone as conservative as Ted Olson so strongly and eloquently supports the freedom to marry,” Wolfson said. “That said, I like it better when Ted plays Evan Wolfson.”

Jimmy LaSalvia, executive director of the gay conservative group GOProud, defended Olson by saying many conservatives support the Romney campaign and a Federal Marriage Amendment doesn’t have a shot passing even though Romney and Ryan support it.

“Ted Olson — like most conservatives — is focused on defeating Barack Obama and rebuilding our economy,” LaSalvia said. “The Federal Marriage Amendment didn’t have a chance of passing eight years ago, and it doesn’t have a prayer of passing now.”

Same-sex marriage could return to California soon depending on the decision of the U.S. Supreme Court later this month. If the Supreme Court declines to take up the appeal of the lawsuit, the Ninth Circuit decision overturning Prop 8 would stand, allowing gay couples to wed in California.

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  1. I'm Just Sayin'

    September 16, 2012 at 6:49 am

    Jimmy LaSalvia appears to be the Blade’s go to guy for gratuitous quotes and superficial political analysis. So Jimmy, why is it that a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage doesn’t have a chance of passing out of Congress? Not because 99.9% of republicans would support it, but because they don’t hold enough seats in the current Congress and aren’t expected to obtain the 67% majority they would need in the upcoming Congress to make it happen. So, I know it is hard for you to say the words Jimmy, but give it a try….it’s the Democrats that enlightened LGBT voters continue to support that makes your pronouncement likely. The people you support and promote would like nothing better than to prove you wrong. It’s the rest of us, who allow GOProud to act irresponsibly and save them from themselves.

    So, please Chris, enough of Jimmy LaSalvia already. You need to work harder for some insightful commentary. The only people who you should have gotten on record is Log Cabin who have deemed Olsen a ‘conservative hero.” Be interesting to hear Clarke Cooper’s twisted logic on how Olsen’s halo still shines bright in Log Cabin’s make believe world where they are welcomed because “inclusion wins” and Republicans actually practice it.

  2. Tom

    September 16, 2012 at 8:29 am


    Says the director of Stonewall Democrats: “the former solicitor general is ‘subject to the same cognitive dissonance’ as other conservative [sic] who vote against their own interests in favor of ideological purity.”

    Kettle, meet pot.

    Is it so difficult to understand that all voters, including those of us in the LGBT community, base their election choices on more than one issue?

    We all won’t always agree on which candidates to support, but these types of arrogant blanket putdowns are not very persuasive when expressing one’s partisan point of view.

  3. Jeff 4 Justice

    September 16, 2012 at 11:47 am

    I LOVE IT!

    I think it’s kinds funny, kinda sad how Prop 8 lawyer Ted Olson is once again throwing LGBTs under a bus by helping the GOP win in November (like he did here in CA back in 2010). I’m remembering how Democrats helped GWB vote in Alito and Roberts when Bush was Prez.

    Gay Inc. mega groups and the LGBT media have ignored alternative party options who have been 100% supportive of equality (Rocky Anderson, Jill Stein, and Gary Johnson) and now we’re getting a dose of how that feels with Olson.

    Karma : )

  4. Bruce Majors

    September 16, 2012 at 5:39 pm

    Romney lets gay foreign policy advisor Richard Grenell be black balled by social cons; Obama lets gay ambassador Christopher Stevens be raped and murdered.

    Neither party is worth voting for.

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More Americans personally know someone who’s transgender, non-binary: survey

42% know a trans person, 26% know someone using gender-neutral pronouns



More Americans personally know a transgender person or someone who goes by gender-neutral pronouns, according to new data from the non-partisan Pew Research Center.

A survey found 42 percent of Americans know someone who’s transgender, who is up from 37 percent who said so in 2017. Although most Americans, 57 percent, still say they don’t know anyone who’s transgender, that’s down from 63 percent five years ago.

Similarly, 26 percent of Americans say they know someone who uses non-binary gender pronouns compared to the 18 percent in 2018 who said they knew someone uses pronouns such as “they” as opposed to “he” or “she.”

At the same time, comfort levels with using gender-neutral pronouns – as well as their opinions on whether someone’s gender can differ from the sex they were assigned at birth – has remained about the same. Half of Americans say they would be either very or somewhat comfortable using a gender-neutral pronoun to refer to someone if asked to do so, compared to 48 percent who say they would not be comfortable. The numbers, according to Pew Research, are basically unchanged since 2018.

The survey found profound differences by age, party, and education in knowing a transgender person or someone who goes by gender-neutral pronouns, although in both parties growing shares of Americans report knowing a person who’s transgender.

For Americans under age 30, some 53 percent say they know a transgender person, which is up from 44 percent in 2017. In the same age group, 46 percent of younger U.S. adults know someone who goes by gender-neutral pronouns, compared to 32 percent in 2018.

The Pew Research Center conducted the survey of 10,606 U.S. adults between June 14 and June 17. The survey is weighted to reflect the U.S. adult population in terms of gender, race, ethnicity, partisan affiliation, education, and other categories, according to Pew Research.

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Louisiana lawmakers fail to overturn Edwards veto of Trans sports bill

Edwards further said that the bill was “mean” because it targets “the most emotionally fragile children in the state of Louisiana.”



Louisiana Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards (Photo Credit: Official state portrait)

BATON ROUGE – Louisiana lawmakers failed to override Gov. John Bel Edwards’ (D) veto last month of a bill that would have barred trans girls and women from participating on athletic teams or in sporting events designated for girls or women at elementary, secondary and postsecondary schools.

The measure, Senate Bill 156 authored by Sen. Beth Mizell titled the ‘the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act,’ in the Governor’s eyes, “was a solution in search of a problem that simply does not exist in Louisiana,” Edwards said in his veto statement;

“As I have said repeatedly when asked about this bill, discrimination is not a Louisiana value, and this bill was a solution in search of a problem that simply does not exist in Louisiana. Even the author of the bill acknowledged throughout the legislative session that there wasn’t a single case where this was an issue. 

The Republican majority state House chamber failed to override the Governor’s veto after voting 68-30 to override it, according to the state legislature’s website.

The vote narrowly missed the 70-vote threshold needed in the lower chamber to override the veto.

Two-thirds of both the House and Senate must vote to override a governor’s veto, according to the local Baton Rouge newspaper The Advocate.

The Governor reacted to the news that his veto withstood Republican efforts to overturn it in a press conference Wednesday.

Edwards noted that in his view he had “rejected a play” that had no place in Louisiana. 

“I would rather the headlines going out from today be that Louisiana did what was right and best. We rejected a play out of a national playbook that just had no place in Louisiana. That bill wasn’t crafted for our state, I mean go read it and look at the arguments that were made. None of that applies here,” Edwards said.

He further said that the bill was “mean” because it targets “the most emotionally fragile children in the state of Louisiana.” 

“We have to be better than that,” Edwards said. “We have to be better than that.” 


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Federal court blocks West Virginia Law banning Trans youth sports

“It hurt that the State of West Virginia would try to block me from pursuing my dreams. I just want to play.”



Becky Pepper-Jackson (Photo credit: ACLU/Raymond Thompson)

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A judge of the United States District Court, Southern District of West Virginia ruled Wednesday that 11-year-old Becky Pepper-Jackson must be allowed to try out for the girls’ cross-country and track teams at her school, blocking West Virginia from enforcing a law that bans transgender girls and women from participating in school sports. 

The ruling came in the lawsuit challenging the ban filed by Lambda Legal, the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of West Virginia, and Cooley LLP.

“I am excited to know that I will be able to try out for the girls’ cross-country team and follow in the running shoes of my family,” said Becky Pepper-Jackson, the plaintiff in the lawsuit. “It hurt that the State of West Virginia would try to block me from pursuing my dreams. I just want to play.”

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice signed H.B. 3293 into law at the end of April. It was one of hundreds of anti-LGBTQ bills pushed in state legislatures across the country in 2021. During legislative debate, it was not endorsed by any mainstream sporting or health organizations. A similar law in Idaho was blocked by a federal court in 2020, and a federal court in Connecticut recently dismissed a challenge to policies that allow all girls, including girls who are transgender, to participate on girls’ sports teams. Legal challenges are underway against similar laws passed in other states.

The Supreme Court recently refused to disturb Gavin Grimm’s victory at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, where he prevailed in challenging his school’s anti-transgender discrimination against him. This decision — which is binding precedent in West Virginia federal court — said that federal law protects transgender students from discrimination in schools.

“This is great news for Becky, and while our work is not done yet, today’s ruling jibes with similar rulings in other courts across the country,” said Avatara Smith-Carrington, Tyron Garner Memorial Law Fellow, Lambda Legal. “It is our hope that courts recognize and address discrimination when they see it, and nowhere is it more visible than in these stark attacks against trans youth.”

“Becky — like all students — should have the opportunity to try out for a sports team and play with her peers,” said Josh Block, senior staff attorney with the ACLU LGBTQ & HIV Project. “We hope this also sends a message to other states to stop demonizing trans kids to score political points and to let these kids live their lives in peace.” 

“We’ve said all along this cruel legislation would not survive a legal challenge, and we’re encouraged by the court’s decision today,” said ACLU-WV Legal Director Loree Stark. “We hope trans kids throughout West Virginia who felt attacked and wronged by the passage of this legislation are feeling empowered by today’s news.”

“We are extremely gratified — for Becky, and for all trans youth — at the court’s recognition that the law and the facts clearly support treating people who are transgender fairly and equally. Discrimination has no place in schools or anywhere else,” said Kathleen Hartnett of Cooley LLP.

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