Prop 8 defender plans daughter’s wedding

Timothy Kincaid

April 17th, 2014

Proposition 8, California’s 2008 ban on marriage equality, has suffered much indignity. Not only was it pilloried at trial, condemned in appeal, and pronounced dead at the Supreme Court, but it became an international rallying moment and a watershed in the struggle for marriage equality.

The 2010 trial of Proposition 8 – though not televised or even radio broadcast – was one of the more captivating media events of the year. Social media and websites gave snippets of testimony which collectively provided a tale of drama. Local and national television recounted the day’s events.

And the presumptions and prejudices underlying anti-gay bills were placed in the harsh light of scrutiny. A watching nation realized, many for the first time, that opposition was based not in morality, truth, or tradition, but on animus and a desire to diminish the dignity and honor of gay citizens.

In the subsequent years, greater embarrassment has attached itself to the Proposition and its legacy. Perhaps one of the sharpest cuts came in June of 2012 when David Blankenhorn, the chief – and virtually only – witness in defense of the proposition reversed position and announced that he supports marriage equality.

And now the proposition has yet another disgrace to bear: (WaPo)

The conservative lawyer who defended California’s ban on gay marriage at the Supreme Court is at work on another project: planning his daughter’s upcoming same-sex wedding ceremony.

Charles J. Cooper, a former top official in the Reagan Justice Department and onetime “Republican lawyer of the year,” learned of his daughter’s sexual orientation during the legal battle over California’s Proposition 8, according to journalist Jo Becker’s soon-to-be-released book chronicling the movement to legalize same-sex marriage.

“My family is typical of families all across America. We love each other; we stand up for each other; and we pray for, and rejoice in, each other’s happiness. My daughter Ashley’s path in life has led her to happiness with a lovely young woman named Casey, and our family and Casey’s family are looking forward to celebrating their marriage in just a few weeks.”


April 17th, 2014

This is so irony in this is dumbfounding.

You couldn’t make this $h!t up, if you tried!


April 17th, 2014

Lawyers are paid to take positions for clients which do not always align with their personal beliefs. Regardless of whether this is the case for Mr. Cooper or not, he is showing the love every parent should by not turning his back on his daughter or her fiancé.


April 17th, 2014

Damn, I obviously, changed my sentence structure mid way through that first line.


Some things do now come to mind.

I imagine some will now want to label him a hypocrite; though the label may not so easily apply.

If his daughter came out mid trial, he had already committed himself to this task.


First of all, I wonder if he had the option to step down and if his clients would have allowed it.

Secondly, I can’t help but think this would have had to have taken some of the wind out of his sails during trial.

It would also be interesting to know how his role in the ‘8’ trial impacted his reaction to his daughters marriage. Did he start out (pre trial) completely in his clients camp? Only to discover while trying to ‘defend marriage’ that there was nothing dangerous to defend it from? Thus allowing him to be open to his daughter’s engagement.

I wouldn’t run out to buy a ‘the book.’ But an interview would make a good bookend to the Trial story.

Priya Lynn

April 17th, 2014

How deliciously ironic!

Richard Rush

April 17th, 2014

I hope this story becomes widely publicized. I wonder what NOM will have to say ~ if they say anything, I suspect it would be that Cooper should be disbarred for concealing his conflict of interest, and that he sabotaged the case.


April 17th, 2014

It shows again that Republicans are severely lacking in empathy. They never care for anything unless it affects themself.

Rob Tisinai

April 17th, 2014

I do now look back at key bits of the Prop 8 trial, for instance when Judge Walker was questioning Cooper:

“What is the harm to the procreation purpose you outlined of allowing same-sex couples to get married?” Walker asked.

“My answer is, I don’t know. I don’t know,” Cooper answered.

That was a devastating moment that we rightfully took glee in.

My prediction: The anti-gays will seize on this as evidence the trial was rigged against them. I can hear the complaints now: “The judge was gay AND our lawyer’s daughter is gay.”

Ben In Oakland

April 17th, 2014

I really do have something to say about this. I hope I have time. I don’t think we could have a better exemplar of the situation than Cooper


April 17th, 2014

Seems like another right-winger who has never managed to extend his circle of empathy beyond his own family members.


April 17th, 2014

I like that people are evolving on the issue and changing and it’s undeniable that knowing someone who is lgbt tends to make you more accepting, except politicians who are anti-gay and claim they have lots of gay friends, but I don’t know it seems kind of sad that they don’t care unless it personally impacts them. Again I am happy that they are changing and I guess as long as they do that’s what matters, but the somewhat selfishness of it bugs me just a little.


April 17th, 2014

Cooper has a long history of anti-gay activism since his time in the Reagan Justice Department, where he served as Assistant Attorney General. He authored a memo arguing that people with AIDS were not covered under laws prohibiting employment discrimination of the handicapped. He also submitted briefs in support of Colorado’s Amendment 2, which barred gay people of equal protection of the law. HE also defended the state of Hawaii in one of the first marriage equality trials. No wonder he was named “Republican Lawyer of the Year.”

Like Rob Portman, when one of his children (or, more accurately, step-children) came out, he suddenly developed a modicum of empathy.

More on him here:


April 17th, 2014

Note his statement that he “still evolving” on this. That, I suspect, means he’s still not sure that most of us should be able to get married, but he’s not about to deny that right to his own stepdaughter…can you say Dick Cheney.


April 17th, 2014

Wow robert, I didn’t realize what a horrible person he was.


April 18th, 2014

I realise the fact the it took the experience of a close family member to change Cooper’s mind doesn’t reflect terribly well on his empathy towards his fellow human beings overall. Though he might lack agape, at least we have evidence that he can feel the love.

Contrast that with a figure like Tony Abbott, Prime Minister of Australia. He has a lesbian sister who has expressed the wish to be able to marry her partner and it hasn’t budged him on the issue at all. Not much evolution in evidence there despite the family example.

Regan DuCasse

April 18th, 2014

“Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are.” – Ben Franklin

All y’all know me. Never was my dog in the fight.
I just like to fight. :0P


April 18th, 2014

There will be many more stories like Cooper’s. I can’t help but think that we need to step back and appreciate this unique crucible of time in which we have been living. Like the Hubble Telescope that once viewed the heavens through a cataract, the emergence of LGBT people has become a contact lens bringing startling clarity to our once-blurred picture of the human family. Our “sudden” appearance – like ships hidden by a fog – has forced a sea change of reason upon a whole bunch of people who didn’t know we were standing next to them. Never before, in the history of our species, has an entire race of people seemingly materialized out of thin air… like The Rapture in reverse. Sometimes I get angry at the hypocrisy of it all. But when I am feeling particularly charitable I try to remember that this phenomenon that we represent – this rapid evolution of reality – is unprecedented, and its effect on people who have lived sheltered lives (whether by choice or circumstance) is profound. After decades of struggling against hatred and cruelty, I want us all to take some time to just sit back and marvel at the revelation we all knew was inevitable.


April 18th, 2014

Victor, I had never thought about it that way, but you’re absolutely correct! And what a beautiful way to articulate it.

Regan, I think all of us who have experienced your advocacy and ferocity are very thankful to have you on our side!


April 18th, 2014

Now that it’s his own daughter that is going to be treated like a 2nd class citizen, now he cares.

Typical Republican. I’ve got mine, fuck all y’all. Until suddenly, he realizes something (he had a big hand in creating) is going to take away something of his, then it’s all BIG GUBMINT KEEP YER MITZ OFFA MY FREEDOMZ!

It’s been said elsewhere that his Ideal world would be one where he could have equality for HIS daughter’s family only and I think that’s probably accurate.

Also, I’m happy you’re evolving. What about the damage you’ve caused over the past 2 decades to other gay families? Are you at all sorry about that? I didn’t think so. Granted, I’d tell you to light any apology on fire and shove it up your ass, but I’m not a believer in forgiveness for some things (see Melhmen, Ken). But still it would show some actual evolution.

Richard Rush

April 18th, 2014

One of the apparent defining characteristics of True Christiansâ„¢ is that they require a group of people to persecute. After they could no longer get away with persecuting Jews for centuries, they must have felt lost and listless. And then they discovered homosexuals, and suddenly their lives had meaning again. But their experience with Jews never equipped them to anticipate one important thing ~ because Christian parents didn’t have to worry that one day their son or daughter might come out as a Jew. Now, to their horror, they are not only discovering gays within their own families, rapidly increasing number of those gays are no longer willing to be intimidated into self-loathing, and they even have the audacity to demand that they be treated as though they are equal to good people.

Timothy Kincaid

April 18th, 2014

It would appear that some gay people would prefer that Republicans NOT change their stripes, NOT evolve, NOT begin to support our cause. And it would seem that, to some, the act of publicly supporting equality is proof of their own selfishness and callowness.

I suppose that if one hates Republicans more than one loves equality, then this would be a logical response. Keeping one’s enemies as vile as possible (and keeping them your enemy) is an excellent justification for hate. And for some people I suppose that equality is a small price to pay for continuing the hatred.

But it is a price.

If all that a Republican receives upon evolving on the marriage issue is derision and scorn and accusations of selfishness, some may be disincentivized to do so. They may even come to re-question the matter. It’s hard to sympathize with those who express their hatred towards you.

And almost certainly there will be some Republicans who will come to find equality fits with their worldview, but who keep it silent and hidden because they just don’t want the abuse. Voices who might help shift others around them will be silent because they know that they will be attacked not only by our enemies but, ironically, by those in our community whom would be helped by their speaking out.

There is no positive side for our community to attacking those who shift sides to support us. This is a very self-destructive behavior.

But, if one hates Republicans more than one supports equality, I suppose that’s what one does.

Surely not all who are criticizing him place their own hatred as a higher priority than their own equality. Some are just caught up in the joy of expressing contempt for others.

But I am coming to the conclusion that for some people in our community, they would rather have an enemy to hate than to find a peaceful resolution to the culture war.

Timothy Kincaid

April 18th, 2014


Your comment has zero connection to the content of the article. I have no idea what Cooper’s religion is, and I doubt that you do.

Further your accusations bear no relation to any real conservative Christian I’ve ever met. I’ve known quite a few conservative Christians and I’ve never met one who found meaning in hatred.

Frankly, this sound more like something you’d see written about gay people on a site like WND. You are certainly a more thoughtful commenter than this comment would suggest.


April 18th, 2014

Thanks, @ZRAinSWVA… I appreciate your comments. And I agree with Timothy… there is no point in fighting for equality and a fair shot at happiness if we are not going to welcome people who have had their eyes opened for any reason, even a seemingly selfish one. It is not for us to judge what is in other’s hearts. If we don’t learn to get better at being gracious how will we ever get along once everyone has evolved and we are all standing on the same side?


April 18th, 2014

Timothy, I understand your angle, but it’s less about attacking the hate than hating the hypocrisy and nearly sociopathic inability to empathize.

I like Victor’s metaphor and the quote provided by Regan.

The problem is that it’s so frustrating that these people’s empathy ends at the end of their family tree or circumstance.

And I marvel at those with these attitudes who call themselves “Christians.” I can’t quote the New Testament, but isn’t there something in there by Jesus telling his followers that how they treat the beggar, leper, etc., is how they treat him.


April 18th, 2014

I would accept an absolute and sincere apology and asking for forgiveness by Cooper. Short of that, I’ll just throw him in the Portman, Mehlman, etc., “non-truly-sorry” pile.

The Lauderdale

April 18th, 2014

” … I can’t help but think that we need to step back and appreciate this unique crucible of time in which we have been living. Like the Hubble Telescope that once viewed the heavens through a cataract, the emergence of LGBT people has become a contact lens bringing startling clarity to our once-blurred picture of the human family. Our “sudden” appearance – like ships hidden by a fog – has forced a sea change of reason upon a whole bunch of people who didn’t know we were standing next to them. Never before, in the history of our species, has an entire race of people seemingly materialized out of thin air… like The Rapture in reverse. Sometimes I get angry at the hypocrisy of it all. But when I am feeling particularly charitable I try to remember that this phenomenon that we represent – this rapid evolution of reality – is unprecedented, and its effect on people who have lived sheltered lives (whether by choice or circumstance) is profound. After decades of struggling against hatred and cruelty, I want us all to take some time to just sit back and marvel at the revelation we all knew was inevitable.”

I love this comment.

As for sweeping statements about Republicans or Christians or Conservatives, while it isn’t always easy to dismantle a personal bias, I try to at least know what mine are lest I become too credulous. My dad is like this as well. He trends conservative, I trend more liberal, but we both get leery if someone sells us something too close to our personal triggers. (He spends a lot of time Snopes-ing mailings from other conservative family members and friends.)

Timothy Kincaid

April 18th, 2014


First off, I don’t know Cooper’s religion. As far as I know, he hasn’t gone around calling himself “Christian”. He may be, or he may be secular, agnostic, atheist, Buddhist or Pastafarian. But it wasn’t part of his legal defense of Proposition 8.

And unless he’s touting a Christian identity as being the reason for his anti-gay positions, there’s no hypocrisy to point at.

Secondly, we have no reason at all to demand – or even assume – that he has no ability to empathize. From what we know of the case, Cooper was not lacking empathy towards the plaintiffs.

This insistence that “if it wasn’t his kid he wouldn’t” is only supported by imagination. It may be true, but it may be not. Only presumption and hatred make it true in the minds of those who insist it is so.

The truth is that virtually ALL people who change their views on marriage do so out of a personal relationship.

Does Justice Freedman lack empathy because “he only changed because he had a gay law clerk”? Or perhaps President Obama lacks empathy because he only changed his views due to one or another of his gay friends? How selfish of them.

The truth is that exposure to gay people changes views. It’s not some ability or inability to empathize that drives opinions on marriage, rather it is visual evidence that the lies told about us are not true.

Those lies permeate society. Old old prejudices that may not be based in active animus but sit there underneath and give credibility to nonsense like that spewed by Brian Brown.

But coming out, being out, living out, those are what give evidence in opposition to those lies.

In Cooper’s case, it was his daughter. But it probably also was the plaintiffs. He told the book’s author that he found admiration for them. We don’t know all of the examples which led him to evolve, but we cannot – with credibility – assume it was only one.

We say all the time that coming out changes those around us. It does.

But when our loved ones change their views because they see our lives, it is not some damnation of their character. It isn’t evidence that they lack empathy.

Nor is it in Cooper’s case.


April 18th, 2014

Typical Republican – NOW everything is different!
Poor daughter.


April 18th, 2014


I was not directly speaking about Cooper with my religious comments.

I did not read the book–if he says that his opinions changed during the trial and not just because of his daughter, then I stand corrected.

However, given his anti-gay legal zeal (thanks, Robert)–even if doing as he was hired to do (even while with the DOJ)–I think he still owes an apology, which I (speaking only for myself) would accept.

Those who have *never* done us direct harm in the past obviously owe no apology for changing their views, except perhaps to those close to them.

BTW, based on old comments by Barack Obama, it was not due to close people that he “changed” his views. Unfortunately, his calculus was entirely political–I don’t believe for a second that he was ever personally against marriage equality. I get the impression this was part of his belief in Equality going way back to his days as a community organizer.

Regarding judges who rule in our favor, I think they are following the law as much as they are following their hearts and their view of society as a whole. There are obviously jurists with evil in their heart who shape the law to fit their warped beliefs (Fat Tony, Clarence the Sock Puppet, “Tiny Tony” Sam), but based on the roster of judges ruling for us (most of whom have been stacked by Republicans), the law and precedence win out.


April 18th, 2014

Barack Obama did not “evolve” on the issue of Same Sex Marriage. In response to a Windy City Times candidate questionnaire he filled out in 1996 when preparing to run for Illinois State Senator he made it quite clear he supported SSM. His equivocation on the subject only began when his presidential aspirations were made manifest. (How or why the GOP did not nail him on it during the ’08 campaign will remain a mystery.) The only “evolving” he did was political, waiting for the most opportune moment to bring his administration’s official position into alignment with his personal beliefs.


April 18th, 2014

Victor–that’s for the citation. That’s what I was talking about.

BTW, based on the leak from “Forcing the Spring” , Mehlman did a “good deed”, but I still don’t believe he has actually apologized for the serious harm he did us during the Bush years. If I am wrong, someone please point me to that.


April 18th, 2014

@MattNYC – I recommend “Obama And The Gays: A Political Marriage” by Tracy Baim from Prairie Avenue Productions (C) 2010. Baim’s paper (Windy City Times) conducted the candidate survey I referenced. It is a very eye-opening book.


April 19th, 2014

Best comment I read on this was Scott Wollege-
“I wonder what Brian Brown & Maggie will be sending for a wedding gift?

Whereas I am waiting for “I’m sorry,” and note the irony and selfishness of only being influenced once it hits home, I’m still happy we got another one. Blankenhorn, Cooper, who is next? Dr. Tam, is that you I see in the back?

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