September 20, 2012 at 4:53 pm EDT | by Peter Rosenstein
Two-faced Ted Olson should be shunned

How can Ted Olson look himself in the mirror without cringing? Many in the LGBT community were concerned when Olson took on the California case seeking to overturn Proposition 8 and its ban on marriage equality. They wondered how such an ultra-conservative and supporter of the Republican Party and George Bush could suddenly become an icon in the fight for marriage equality.

But the American Foundation for Equal Rights (AFER) convinced the community that Olson really believed in what he was doing and was not just taking on such a high-profile case to add luster to his legal resume. Well today we have our answer. Ted Olson may be a good lawyer, but at heart he is still a right-wing conservative willing to support and enable candidates who have sworn to fight against the civil and human rights of the LGBT community. By helping Paul Ryan, an anti-gay rights candidate who is diametrically opposed to what Olson said he believes, Olson has unveiled a side of himself that many people believe is the true Ted Olson. Instead of being honored by both sides in this battle, men like Olson should be shunned.

I understand that good people can disagree on foreign and domestic policy. These debates can be had in good faith with respect for each other’s opinions. We can and must compromise on many issues if the nation is to move forward. But on human and civil rights there can be no compromise. Here we must rely on people’s basic belief in the morality of right and wrong. No compromise should be acceptable to decent honorable people. Civil rights, not to be confused with or impinging on the right to practice one’s religion, must be non-negotiable. These are rights that our government must guarantee equally to all its citizens.

Olson now supports and works for a party whose leaders have sworn to deny those rights. They have signed a document supporting a constitutional amendment — the first to enshrine discrimination — stating that civil marriage in our nation is only for one man and one woman.

Some have claimed Olson could use his time to convince Ryan to change his mind. That is absurd since we know that Ryan has made his political career as a right-wing ideologue catering to those who support and fund hate groups like the Family Research Council. How can Olson, who worked with AFER to fight the legal battle over Prop 8, be so two-faced?

Olson and AFER received national publicity and the thanks that came with winning that case. But today we see what is in his heart. It must be assumed that when Olson looks himself in the mirror each night he sees two images — one receiving a pat on the back for being a good lawyer, the other a pat on the back for supporting ideologues who will have the power to undue what he won.

Olson was clearly not the only lawyer that could have won the case and in fact he didn’t do it alone but with the help of David Bois. Many other attorneys could have worked with AFER but they determined Olson would garner them plenty of publicity and money and they were right. Today they must look into their hearts and wonder about that decision.

We must never accept apologists for the Republican ticket who say, “Don’t worry the constitutional amendment can’t pass,” or “Romney isn’t really as bad as he seems after all he could flip-flop on his positions again.” We must take people like Romney and Ryan at their word and when we do we must also see Olson for who he really is: a man helping to continue to fight against the civil and human rights of the LGBT community. He is helping those who would move us backwards. He has joined those on the wrong side of history and is now an example of hypocrisy of the worst kind.

  • The only people who should be shunned are the partisan hacks like Mr. Rosenstein, who actually seems to believe that sustained legal equality for gays and lesbians can be realized through the support of only one of the two major political parties. Instead of celebrating the fact that more and more prominent Republicans like Mr. Olson are supporting gay rights and same-sex marriage, Rosenstein has determined that since they’re not all on board, they all suck and are the enemy. The fact is that Ted Olson has done more for glbt rights than Mr. Rosenstein and all his fellow carping liberal bloggers combined, and for Rosenstein to state that Ted took the Prop. 8 case merely to “add luster to his legal resume” is pathetic, as I’m sure all the Democratic attorneys and activists who have worked with Mr. Olson on this great victory would attest. I also find his premise that one cannot in good conscience support a candidate with whom one disagrees on gay rights very interesting coming from someone who no doubt supported Bill Clinton in both of his runs for president. Now Clinton certainly touted himself as pro-gay rights, and gay Democrats were mostly gaga over him. So much so that when Clinton gave us Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, they called it a reform and excused its inherent homophobia. When Clinton supported and signed the Defense of Marriage Act (which “enshrined discrimination” in federal law), I don’t recall any prominent gay Democrats renouncing or “shunning” Clinton because he was on the “wrong side of history” and was “an example of hypocrisy of the worst kind.” In fact, they campaigned for and voted for him. And when Clinton ran ads on Christian radio stations in 1996 reminding listeners of his support for DOMA and their shared values, Rosenstein and his fellow gay Democrats were silent. So apparently supporting your party’s candiate for president even when you disagree with his various positions on gay rights is permissible ONLY if you’re a Democrat; otherwise, you’re giving aid and comfort to the enemy. In Rosenstein’s world, only Democratic politicians can change their minds on gay rights and become more supportive over time, never Republicans. The thing is, Mr. Rosenstein’s world is not the REAL world, just the make believe world of a Democratic Party apparatchik more interested in self promotion than actually building sustainable social and political change.

  • First off, you uninformed, shameful but yet true example of the declining standards of intelligence for American “journalists”, Ted Olson’s assistance to the Romney/Ryan campaign bears no correlation to the social policies he supports. We live in a country where our judicial branch is separate from our executive– things you should have learned in elementary school. Regardless of romneys views on homosexual rights, abortion, etc. , no laws will be magically created to combat these issues… That is up to our judicial branch, as we see in California. To say that Ted Olson is “two faced” is to say that we elect a president who implicates his religious beliefs on the nation (how could we forget JFK’s legendary ban on Jewish holidays!?)
    When Ted publicly took on this trial, he showed the nation that not all Conservatives have conservative social outlooks. Just because one may want capitalism to remain in America doesn’t mean he or she must be pro-life for example.
    California’s majority wanted gay marriage banned, but Ted reminded us that Constitutional rights are not put up to a vote. In the 1960s, the majority of California voted to pass a law making descrimination legal, but the courts combated this– checking the public because rights are guaranteed to all, as American citizens.

    And one more thing, the conservative republican side is not “moving you back”. They represent an economic system that America become truly great with, and hopefully it will return one day. No matter the president be republic or democrat, conservative or liberal, as our nation ages, our people will continue to get more rights, just like black rights and women’s rights in the past.

  • Ted Olson: I LOVE AND RESPECT YOU. You are being true to who you are, and who you have always been, an attorney who (unfortunately) helped “W” win the White House. And yet, isn’t this the message that we in the LGBT community are always arguing should be respected?! “Being true to who I am, so respect me for it.”

    Olson hasn’t joined the other side, preposterous, he is FROM conservative America. He never left it, and that is his “home”. In fact, he has endured the same argument from the Conservatives: that he joined the dark (Liberal) side in the fight for marriage equality. And now, true to his words, he is still trying to show conservative Americans that we can work together when we need to, even though we are different in so many ways.

    If Ted Olson is a hypocrite, then I expect you had better get on the phone and call every person you know and love, who votes for a republican, or gives to their party, and tell them they are a hypocrite. Every last one. Do you really believe that? I don’t think so.

  • While I share your dismay that Mr Olson is helping Lyin Ryan prepare for the debate, I suspect his point of view is a bit more nuanced than your “evil incarnate” characterization. It would be far more interesting and educational for you to request an interview with Mr Olson; I’d expect he would be quite willing to sit down with you. I do not believe his work to overturn Prop 8 was a stunt. Do your readers a service and investigate this a bit more.

  • I may be cynical, but I never believed Olsen was interested in marriage rights for gays. Of course he understands that marriage equality is right, and marriage bans are violations of due process, equal protection, and full faith and credit. But his overriding concern has always been the interests of the Republican Party.

    I wasn’t convinced about Boies either – he was president of the Young Republicans when he was in college. He has made a career out of taking cases for the side that pays him the most money, sometimes working for one side and later working for the opposite side. Boies is often called a “Democrat” by the press because he took Gore’s side in the 2000 election case, but Boies himself has never publicly claimed to be a Democrat.

    I believe both Olsen and Boies took the Prop 8 case to try to get the marriage issue settled by the Supreme Court one way or the other as soon as possible. I don’t think they cared much which way it went. They wanted it settled because (like NY Republicans) they realized it was played out as a wedge issue garnering large numbers of votes for Republicans, and they knew we were entering an era where the Republican position would become damaging to the party.

    • It is no surprise, with this kind of ignorant, blind hate, that our country is so politically polarized. In Ted Olson, we have a man who stands for what he believes. He is defending the rights of people that he believes are having their constitutional rights violated, without regard to what political party they belong. Yet you demonize him. And, although you do not know him, you claim to understand his motives. Pitiful.

  • No, you’re not cynical, just a complete idiot for presuming to read people’s minds and know what they’re really up to. And of course, since Boies was a YR in college, he must by lying now!

  • I could believe Ted Olson probably helped a lot of anti-gay candidates in his life, but Paul Ryan isn’t the best example; Ryan voted in favor of ENDA in 2007; this law would have banned private employers from discriminating against gay people.

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