It doesn’t matter that you know how “The Case Against 8” (9 p.m. Monday, HBO) ends. This documentary is about the journey, and, with an emotional elegance, it tells the background story of the fight to overturn Proposition 8, California’s ban on same-sex marriage.
Directors Ben Cotner and Ryan White spent five years shooting footage of the legal team and the four plaintiffs in the suit. The lawyers involved are superstars: Ted Olson and David Boies faced each other in the Bush v. Gore Supreme Court case (the case concerning the 2000 election). Olson, a conservative who won the case for President Bush, is on board first, causing suspicion among gay right activists. “It’s two people who love one another and want to live together in a stable relationship, to become part of a family and part of a neighborhood and part of our economy,” Olson says, explaining his seemingly surprising position.
The sentiment in that statement permeates the film; it’s a simple and common sense thought powerful enough to upend opposition. It’s illustrated in the plaintiffs Kris Perry and Sandy Stier and Jeff Zarrillo and Paul Katami – the couples made it through a careful vetting process and it’s clear why. Loving, thoughtful – they put a lot of straight couples I know to shame while also being typical in all the best ways.
You could say the film is one-sided except, as it deftly illustrates, there’s not much to the other side’s argument. (Frankly, I’m annoyed that the eventual Supreme Court case went 5-4.) This is a story about love and hate, about whether we want a brave nation that lives up to its ideals or one guided by the fear of what we think might happen.
In “The Case Against 8,” love and bravery win.