Legal Advocates See Media Opposition To Marriage Equality Diminishing

Attorneys Boies And Olson: Conservative Media Know The “Wave Of The Future Is Against Them”

Marriage equality advocate attorneys David Boies and Ted Olson see the media opposition to their cause softening, and believe that while conservative media “are not prepared to embrace marriage equality,” they are shying away from the issue because “they think that the wave of the future is against them.”

Boies and Olson garnered attention when they joined forces in 2010 to battle California's anti-marriage equality ballot measure, Proposition 8, which was ultimately overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court last summer.

The duo, who had previously worked in opposition during the 2000 Bush vs. Gore case, kicked off a book tour this week to promote Redeeming the Dream, their account of the legal battle for marriage equality and the landmark ruling that struck down Proposition 8.

Prior to an event in Maplewood, N.J. Wednesday night, the lawyers-turned-authors spoke with Media Matters and said they see the media coverage of marriage equality becoming increasingly supportive, marking a notable change from even the recent past.

“The media in my view covered this issue very poorly for many years,” Boies said. “The whole area of gay and lesbian rights was something that the media didn't know how to deal with, were a little uncomfortable dealing with it, didn't want in their view, to get too far out ahead of some of their readers. Because it was a sensitive issue [they] didn't cover it nearly as much as they should have.”

Now, according to Boies, media figures “are beginning to feel uncomfortable opposing it ... I think there have been a number of people who you might think of as conservative commentators who have either been modestly favorable to us or silent on the issue and waiting to see.”

Olson added, “We had one or two favorable Op-Ed pieces by members of the editorial board of The Wall Street Journal. National Review has been pretty consistently on the other side of this. Ed Whelan, who writes in the National Review is very, very strong on the other side of the issue. But a lot of the conservative press is staying away from the issue because I think they think that the wave of the future is against them. So that tells you something right there."

“I think the shift's continuing,” Boies noted. “I think some of the more conservative media are sort of standing back. They are not prepared to embrace marriage equality, but I do think they see that that is the wave of the future. Remember, as much as between 75 to 80 percent of people under 30 ... liberals, conservatives ... 75 to 80 percent of those people favor marriage equality. You don't want to get crossways with that kind of demographic wave.”

Media Matters has documented Fox News' lack of coverage of marriage equality court decisions since the 2013 Supreme Court rulings, with many major cases receiving less than a minute of coverage on the network.

Both Boies and Olson felt they had personally been well-received by both conservative and mainstream media outlets, and that their issue had received fair coverage.

“Lots of different media reacted in different ways, but we were received very warmly, or I was, on Chris Wallace's show, on Fox,” Olson recalled. “Of course, places like MSNBC have given us more access than some of the other outlets, but the novelty of the two of us coming together have caused curiosity. I'd say we were fairly favorably well-received in most places.”

Boies agreed, noting that the coverage they got “once the case was brought I think has been very fair coverage.”

Olson said it's also major companies as much as media who have come around to support gay marriage, noting that more than 100 companies signed an amicus brief in support of the Supreme Court case.

“It had come from a topic that was a hot potato that no one wanted to touch it to one where it was unpopular if they didn't support it,” Olson said. “Because of their stockholders, their employees, their suppliers and their constituencies said this is something that involves respect for human beings.”

Olson, who served under Ronald Reagan and worked for the former president in several posts, also said he believes Reagan would have been a supporter of marriage equality.

“I know in my heart that he would be on our side,” Olson declared. “He was a product of, in many respects, of Hollywood ... I know how he felt about people.”

Olson cited Reagan's opposition to Proposition 6 in California, the 1978 ballot measure that would have barred gay men and women from being school teachers. It failed.

“The fact is that was going to pass and he came out and it came from his heart. He said, 'I think this is wrong, lots of people will be hurt by this, people that are deserving, people will be hurt by this.' And when he came out against it, it lost.”