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There were bitter foes in Bush v. Gore, but neither Ted Olson nor David Boies hesitated at the chance to work together on overturning Proposition 8, which banned gay marriage in California. Olson didn’t like government meddling in people’s private lives, and Boies had a long background with civil-rights litigation in the South that he believed applicable to gay marriage.

But many veterans of the gay-rights movement were very nervous about the legal case brought by these accomplished attorneys. For years, lawyers and activists had been chipping away, slowly and painfully, at the smaller laws and prejudices that prevented full equality for lesbian and gay Americans—relating to the military, employment protection, hate crimes, and marriage. Olson and Boies were new to the cause, and even blocked the formal participation of veteran gay groups as parties to the case. (The powerhouse legal duo felt they could be more successful operating as a smaller cohesive team.) Their hearts might be in the right place, but how could these newcomers possibly understand the complex nuances of fighting for LGBT rights on multiple fronts? Were Boies and Olson pushing a major court case on Prop 8 too quickly? Was the risk of failure—which might set back the marriage battle for years—too high?

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