Griffin was in his element at the Perry trial. Each day he sat in a San Francisco courtroom next to the plaintiffs, Jeff Zarrillo and Paul Katami from Burbank and Kristin Perry and Sandy Stier from Berkeley. (“They’re the real heroes in all of this, who have been willing to be the public face,” Griffin says.) At daily press conferences he stood up front but out of frame, his back against a white wall, as lead attorneys Olson and Boies made their case—that the denial of marriage rights to same-sex couples is without basis and harms a vulnerable minority—to the American public. Even though the Supreme Court blocked any broadcast of the court proceedings (Griffin strongly supported the broadcasting), the trial turned out to be the “teachable moment” he and his team anticipated. Never before had the mainstream media addressed the subject so exhaustively.

“This was probably one of the bravest things I’ve ever seen done,” says Enrique Monagas, one of at least nine gay attorneys working on the case (Monagas wed his partner in 2008, prior to Prop. 8’s passage). “There was a lot of fear about how the case would be received. But Chad was, and is, incredibly confident, and rightly so.”

Griffin lives in a comfortable, mid-century modern house in Los Angeles
with vintage paintings yet to be hung on the walls. Mario Testino photo
books are stacked near fireplaces along with albums filled with
snapshots from his whirlwind two years at the White House. Nineteen when
he first started working for Clinton, Griffin is not yet wearing his
trademark plastic-frame eyeglasses in any of the pictures. But he’s now
got about a dozen pairs, laid out neatly on a white hand towel in his
master bathroom. “I felt like he was my little brother [at the White
House],” Begala says. “I still think of him as a young kid, even though
he operates at such a high level.”