Ted Olson
Lawyers Warn Against Reading Into Supreme Court's Questioning

By Lucas Grindley

Originally published on Advocate.com March 26 2013 11:31 AM ET

After a hearing that lasted an hour and 20 minutes, lawyers for both sides gathered outside the Supreme Court and warned against reading too much into the "penetrating" and "hard questions" they faced.

"We are very, very gratified that they listened, they heard, they asked hard questions," said lawyer for the plaintiffs Ted Olson. But when it comes to what their questions might mean to an outcome, "Based on the questions the justices asked, I have no idea," he said.

Fellow lawyer for the plaintiffs David Boies warned against reading too much into questions. He sees the court exploring a wide range of possible outcomes. Olson replied "yes" when asked if it would be a win if the court decided the proponents of Prop. 8 didn't have standing, for example. And that's just one possibility of many.

Prop. 8 proponents' lawyer Charles Cooper said, "We are looking forward to hopefully a prompt response." The court is expected to issue a ruling in June. Cooper also noted, "The court asked some penetrating, measured questions of both sides." But he didn't stick around long to answer many questions before the cameras. Cooper left it to another representative for the pro-Prop. 8 side who said victory for them is gay marriage decided by "the people and their elected representatives."

The justices' questions jumped around so much it's hard to get any indication of where they might be headed with a ruling, according to The Advocate's reporter inside the chamber. Human Rights Campaign president Chad Griffin, who also founded the American Foundation for Equal Rights that brought the Prop. 8 case to trial, said "We are all cautiously optimistic."

As the lawyers and plaintiffs arrived for the news conference, they got loud applause from a nearby rally for marriage equality. Plaintiff Sandy Stier held hands with her partner, Kris Perry, and she struck a confident note as she approached the microphones. "I also believe in our judicial system and I have great faith in it, but more than anything I believe in love," she said.

Prop. 8 plaintiff Jeff Zarrillo got emotional while thanking his lawyers, Olson and Boies, the two power attorneys who came together from opposing political parties to make the Supreme Court argument.

While Olson was measured in his evaluation of the justices, he was more critical of the other side's presentation. "No one really offered a defense," he said. For his part, he boiled down the argument against Proposition 8 to "it's just wrong." When asked if gay rights is a chance for a landmark decision from the court, he said, "It is maybe the major civil rights battle that we are fighting in this country."

Watch a highlight from the news conference below.