Prop 8 Defense Attorney Reveals Daughter is Gay and Getting Married, Says Views are Evolving

Attorney Charles Cooper, who argued for 'Protect Marriage in the Proposition 8 case, says he learned during the trial that his daughter is gay and he's now helping plan her wedding, the AP reports:

CooperAttorney Charles Cooper says his view of same-sex marriage is evolving after having argued in court that gay unions could undermine marriages between a man and a woman.

The revelation is an unexpected footnote in the years-long debate over Proposition 8, the California measure struck down by the Supreme Court last year. It is also offers a glimpse, through the eyes of one family, of the country's rapidly shifting opinions of gay marriage, with most public polls now showing majorities in favour of allowing the unions.

Said Cooper:

"My views evolve on issues of this kind the same way as other people's do, and how I view this down the road may not be the way I view it now, or how I viewed it ten years ago," Cooper said in journalist Jo Becker's book "Forcing the Spring: Inside the Fight for Marriage Equality."

The AP adds:

In a statement to The Associated Press, Cooper said his family "is typical of families all across America."
"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," he said.


  1. says

    He’s lucky he found out in this manner. Rick Warren had to have his youngest son blow his brains out with a shotgun, and he still ignores the true reason why.

    Only thing missing in this is a statement from him about his relief about losing the case.

  2. The Milkman says

    This just really bothers me, although I’m glad he’s “evolving”… what, did all those other sons and daughters not deserve equal treatment under the civil law? I guess when it’s “other people”, it doesn’t matter.

  3. Ben in Oakland says

    As always, some antigay people’s views on gay people change as soon as it actually affects them or those they love. But being an informed, thoughtful, compassionate person BEFORE it cost them personally was just too much to ask for,.

  4. says

    @TheMilkman that’s how i feel about GOP Senator Rob Portman, who decided his gay son was deserving of marriage equality, TWO YEARS after finding out his son was gay, and *AFTER* Romney lost the election.

    Portman faces an uphill battle – to get his fellow republicans to do something he himself was not able to do – give a f**k about someone else’s child.

  5. says

    It’s still progress when people evolve because of a gay friend or family member; it affirms why being out is still the most important thing we can do. This is how many people are won over–when it personally affects them.

    It’s just unfortunate that people like Cooper had such a narrow frame of mind that they fought against the civil rights of so many, including their own children, for so long before finally seeing the light. Meanwhile, the people who really deserve credit are those who saw beyond their own doorstep and fought Prop 8 simply because it was wrong.

    Cooper can evolve but he can’t change his legacy.

  6. TampaZeke says

    It’s amazing how people can argue that “THOSE gays” are intrinsically evil and trying to destroy all things good and holy (and no plea from gay people or evidence to the contrary will sway their opinion). And they can then take their misinformed personal belief and try to legislate it to deny the entire gay community basic civil rights. And then they have a son/daughter come out and all of the sudden they begin to listen to the arguments that they so easily and arrogantly and self-righteously dismissed before.

    This seems to be a particularly common phenomenon with anti-gay conservatives. Selfishness seems to be the only thing that can sway their “deeply held beliefs”.

  7. Jason Macbride says

    I guess some commenters would prefer he remained opposed to marriage equality. What’s the point of getting people to change their minds if you’re going to keep ragging on them about their previous – and incorrect position? Sometimes you have to take “Yes” for an answer.

  8. Derrick from Philly says

    @ ERNIE,

    you’re so right. Sometimes it takes only one Gay person to come out, and it can change an entire family’s views on civil rights and acceptance for Gay folks. And sometimes the “out” status happens without a formal announcement by the Gay family member. I know, they know, and they’d better accept…if they want me to bake another German Chocolate cake next Thanksgiving.

  9. Kess says

    I’m not going to berate this man. We’re living in a time when the majority understands what equality means, but that doesn’t mean we should turn our backs on those who *used* to be against us. I’m all for forgiving people. I accept his statements and I wish him well. We all evolve in our own ways.

  10. Anony6 says

    Typical of conservatives…no empathy. They remain anti-gay until they can be personally impacted by the suffering their loved ones endure from them.

  11. pete n sfo says

    oh, c’mon you guys…

    He’s an attorney. No one really thought he defended Prop 8 over deeply held convictions, did they? Really??

    I may have been born yesterday… but I’ve been UP ALL NIGHT!

  12. Rainbow Riot says

    Charles Cooper’s inept defense of Traditional Marriage was an inside job by the Radical Homosexual Agenda. The whole thing was a setup–secretly gay judge (Walker), gay-friendly attorneys (Boies, Olsen, and now Cooper), stealth-gay-friendly witnesses for the defense (Blankenhorn), who somehow couldn’t provide any testimony in support of Real Marriage, and then miraculously after the “trial” came out in support of Sodomite Marriage.

    The last two shoes to drop will be when Mike Huckabee gets caught with RuPaul, and Justice Scalia’s mistress comes out as a lesbian.

  13. says

    @Pete: Well, he has a long long history of fighting gay rights and gay people (Google him) so it’s not a leap to assume some convictions were involved, albeit convictions shallow enough to overthrow now that his offspring wants in.

    He certainly deserves some berating–all that anti-gay fruit didn’t fall off the trees into his lap. He picked it himself.

  14. Soy Tortillera! says

    Man, what an amazing psych job by the daughter. Dad is preparing to argue against Marriage Equality before the Supreme Court, the biggest most high-profile case of his career, and Ashley walks into his study one night and says, “Daddy, there’s something I need to tell you…..”

  15. jc says

    The damage done to his daughter is almost certainly permanent. Can you imagine struggling to come out while watching your Father beat your brothers and sisters done publicly?

    And all he can say is “his views are evolving”. Not a word about his daughter.

    Dear Charles Cooper: Step away from your massive ego (and career climbing) and step back to being a father.

  16. Bill says

    @Ernie : Pete has a valid point – attorneys are the socially acceptable equivalents of hired guns. A long history of fighting gay rights could be simply the result of referrals – clients looking for an attorney with prior experience in some area. You’d have to show that he was investing a lot of personal time that he could not justify as marketing for fighting against gay rights.

    Ask any attorney about the need for “billable hours” and what not getting enough of those implies.

    @ Soy Tortillera! : I can imagine what happens next. “Daddy” says, “That’s wonderful, and I should be able to pay for a very nice wedding for you with the fees I’m earning working on this case.”

  17. Bill says

    One little amusing fact that might be of interest for this discussion. There was some opposition to appointing Vaughn Walker, the judge who ruled that Proposition 8 was unconstitutional, because of concerns that he was anti gay. As a private attorney, he handled a trademark infringement case against an group calling itself the Gay Olympics, and even tried to get the person running that group to pay his client’s legal expenses. Walker was merely representing his client and probably viewed the case as a vanilla trademark-infringement case.

    Ironically, after the Prop 8 ruling, the homophobes tried to claim that Walker was prejudiced against them because he’s gay.

  18. says

    Right, Bill and Pete. No doubt he was in the Reagan administration and was voted “Best Republican Lawyer of the Year” because of being paid. Likewise clerking for Rehnquist, who never met a gay rights case he didn’t vote on the wrong side of.

    And how about these highlights from his career:

    In 1986, Mr. Cooper wrote a policy memo for the Reagan administration that argued a law prohibiting discrimination based on handicap didn’t apply to employers who wanted to fire employees with AIDS, if the basis for the decision was fear of catching the disease. He later wrote a brief to the Supreme Court on behalf of several states, defending a Colorado constitutional amendment that denied gay men and lesbians equal protection. In 1997, Mr. Cooper defended Hawaii in the state’s Supreme Court for not performing same-sex marriages, in one of the first major cases tied to the issue.

    Right. It’s just the money.

  19. Chris in Irvine says

    So my question to this guy would be: “If you defended Prop 8 just last year and it would have stood as the law in California, now that your view is evolving, how would you fix it?. How, after harming thousands of people, would you fix something you damaged by defending it? And especially after such quick change of mind”

  20. says

    @Bill: One would have to live inside Cooper’s head (no thank you) to understand the precise convictions or lack thereof behind his defense of a long list of anti-gay cases, but an attorney’s history speaks to his character. And, in Cooper’s case, it’s not pretty.

    Interesting that Ted Olson traveled in similarly conservative circles but then chose another path. History will treat Mr. Olson’s choices more kindly, at least with respect to civil rights.

  21. Paul B. says

    Chris in Irvine…”ditto”. Evolution is great, inevitable in fact. Or you can become extinct…your choice. But, now that you’re daughter has enlightened you…what are you going to do about it? About the damage? About the lovely timeless videos of you defending bigotry…albeit it “half-assed” at best. I’ve always seen him as mushy…let’s see if he firms up a bit on this go-round.

  22. Vox Humana says

    I have to say that having listened to recordings of both the Prop8 case being argued both in California court and before the Supreme Court, there were times when Cooper himself sounded utterly flummoxed and unable to answer crucial questions. At the time, I thought it was just the lack of substance and/or emptiness of the position that he was attempting (and failing) to argue. Even the tone of his voice sounded at times plaintive, confused, conflicted and almost apologetic (particularly in contrast to the aggressive, arrogant, cocksure way Hitler’s little spawn Paul Clement argued Windsor/DOMA). Depending on when Cooper’s daughter dropped her bombshell, this may in fact have affected Clement’s ability to represent the anti-equality case efffectively.

  23. Paul B. says

    @Vox…you’re so right. I thought he was “mushy” in his defense of 8 but maybe it was more about inner conflict as a result of his family issue. In either case, he seemed lacking in many ways and although I was grateful for that…I asked myself why. Maybe this explains it.

  24. ozu says

    Typical wingnut – changing his mind once it affects him personally. What a tool.

    Reminds me of the “tough on drugs” wingnut gubernatorial candidate we had here in Illinois. He suddenly wasn’t quite so interested in locking up drug users after his son was arrested for pot possession.

  25. Bill says

    @KevinVT @Ernie : unfortunately (for you too) all the examples you gave are consistent with a person simply making local optimizations to further his career. As to Ernie’s comparison of Cooper with Olsen, let me point out a concept called “path dependence” and suggest as a short introduction and or for a more detailed example of how this concept might be used.

    Olsen and Bois had previously argued on opposite sides of the Bush v. Gore case. Getting to interact probably gave each a good sense of the others’ abilities and how well they might work together in a future case, should the opportunity arise.

  26. Gary says

    That’s why I do flyovers on this site I can’t stand the word “wing nut.”
    Going from from intellectual, witty, profound, sincere, sarcastic, mean, crude and stupid without effort is a breeze for me. This is promo for “The Black Box” premiering on ABC 4/19. If you are offended by inaccurate depictions of gays, watch this mangling. Let’s hope Vanessa Redgrave gives it some depth.

  27. Dan Cobb says

    Mr. Cooper exhibits the heart and soul of a true conservative. . . NOW that the issue of “homosexuality” is occurring between the four walls of his house, he tries to understand it. Had this man not had a gay child, in good ol’ conservative fashion, he would have continued to litigate against gay rights!

    Geez Mr. Cooper! You couldn’t evolve without
    it affecting yourself? Your family? Conservatives are simply too lacking in the human capacity for understanding to comprehend something that is outside of their direct personal experience. In this, they are truly a scourge on our nation.

  28. says

    Quite right Ernie. Ted Olson’s is the story of a GENUINE evolution. it didn’t emerge from a “family situation” and he’s demonstrated over and over again that he not only understands our issues but precisely how to defend them in court.

    Cooper needs to do a lot more than just go to his daughter’s wedding.

  29. Gary says

    If anyone followed the last episode of the shamelessly crude Showtime series “Shameless” I could relate to the gay son. My family did not resemble his by any means, but I did go-go dance– at a Harvard Frat party. Must credit writers at Showtime for accurate depiction. I think his boyfriend is cute. Carrie Fisher told me we’re all good dancers. Next season will reveal more. Sorry to interrupt.

  30. Flip Flop says

    @Eherenstein: I may be mistaken, but didn’t Olsen have a gay brother-in-law?

    Public policy, like politics, is rooted in personal experience. I understand that it can be difficult to ‘forgive and forget’, nor should we even necessarily ‘forget’, but surely I can’t be the only gay male to have had the experience of being against marriage equality before I was out (and self-accepting), then pro-equality after I was out?

    Stop alienating allies and latecomers. Focus your wrath on the deadenders like Scalia.

  31. TKinSC says

    First of all, Prop. 8 was not struck down by the Supreme Court last year. It was previously struck down by a lower court and the Supremes threw out the appeal because Cooper’s clients had no standing to bring it.

    Secondly, one can believe that marriage by definition is and should be reserved for opposite-sex couples, and even fight for that belief, while at the same time being personally happy for a particular person entering into a same-sex “marriage”. One can disagree without being disagreeable, without being a hypocrite.

    But one thing I can’t stand is the use of the word “evolve”, as if you already know what the right position is but aren’t ready to adopt it yet. If you’ve changed your mind, man up and say so. If you’re in the process of rethinking your position, there’s no shame in that. You can even change your mind and then change it back. But it’s disingenuous all around to say you’re “evolving” or “working your way” toward what you must therefore already believe is the correct position on the issue.

  32. Gary says

    This isn’t “True Confessions’ but it is a fine example of true editing.
    Maybe I should write this on my arm like the “Black Box” preview? That was funny, but a joke. Oh well, The New York Times doesn’t mind publishing me. Maybe you’ll hear the “pinging” of my messages.

  33. Kim says

    My elderly neighbor oppossed intergration for years.Until his daughter married and had a son with a Black man.His feelings about ” Colored” folks changed when he fell in love with his”Colored”grandboy.People evolve

  34. says

    Sorry, Bill. There’s far too much ideology and far too many cases for there to be any excuse for people like this.

    Let me give you an example from my own life: my father, who was a corporate lawyer and a supporter of Republicans. He evolved ON HIS OWN, before I even came out to him. So you can’t just forgive Cooper because he started down the wrong path and then apparently had no choice but to keep going down that path.

    He’s changed now, because his daughter came out.

    He could have stopped BEFORE he made any of those awful arguments in ALL those MANY cases. If he hadn’t been so slow to evolve.

    It may be harder because he’d been a bigot for so long and because he’d made arguments against gay people many times, and I applaud him for coming around, but to explain away his bigotry as mere inertia is far too kind to someone who was clearly evil.

  35. says

    @Bill: Wow, there’s some bedtime reading. BTW, it’s Ted Olson, not Olsen. If we’re talking unfortunate, what’s unfortunate for Mr. Cooper is that he’ll go down in history as the defender of Prop 8 and other anti-gay bigotry. Concepts of path dependence, or whatever other nonsense you want to apply to his career choices, aren’t going to change that.

    @TKINSC: The word “evolve” is perfect in these situations, except to those who remain unevolved.

  36. Flies. Honey. Vinegar. says

    “If you’re in the process of rethinking your position, there’s no shame in that. … But it’s disingenuous all around to say you’re “evolving” or “working your way” toward what you must therefore already believe is the correct position on the issue.”

    Wrong, wrong, and wrong. Couldn’t be wronger. Why wrap your personal anger and resentment in semantics?

    What is ‘evolution’ but ‘rethinking’, being ‘in process’ and ‘working your way’?

    One may not even ultimately agree that the more widely held position is ‘correct’, but one can indeed evolve to the point that one no longer actively opposes a particular point of public policy, accepting it without agreeing with it? How is that not properly characterized as ‘evolution’?

    Case in point: I am ‘evolving’ on the legalization of marijuana. I don’t smoke it, never have, never plan to. 15 years ago, I was adamantly against legalization, having seen it screw up some lives.

    But over time, I have listened to arguments pro and con, and come to believe that criminalization doesn’t work and may in fact have unintended consequences in terms of exacerbating violence; have seen that marijuana has legitimate medicinal applications; have seen that it’s a very widespread and more or less mainstream practice by normal, successful people; and have come to understand that it’s arguably no different than alcohol consumption.

    My position has evolved. My opposition has waned. I’m not going to start smoking pot, and I’m not going to encourage anyone else to. But if it is legalized, I’m not going to be outraged and activist about it.

    I think that there are some people who are in an analogous state of evolution on marriage equality. Let’s make it easier for them to see things from our perspective, not browbeat them when they’re on the threshold of acceptance.

  37. Clayton says

    Seems to me that we should be taking “yes” for an answer. If he hadn’t defended Prop 8, somebody else would have. Now that he has (a) lost the case, and (b) repudiated its premises, we should take this as just another forward step toward equality.

  38. Gary says

    I need to somehow incorporate Kiwi to get attention. Are you there Ki? If anyone followed the last episode of the shamelessly crude Showtime series “Shameless” I could relate to the gay son. My family did not resemble his by any means, but I did go-go dance– at a Harvard Frat party. Must credit writers at Showtime for accurate depiction. I think his boyfriend is cute. Carrie Fisher told me we’re all good dancers. Next season will reveal more. What has your experience been with edited comments?

  39. Gary says

    I can’t keep this up Andy. And I haven’t received my paycheck… I thought this bipolar angle would sell, but you’ve got me beat with the second Holocaust story. Maybe some more Jake. For a sure rise try “The Ruskies” on Tumb.

  40. Gary says

    A vote of confidence from a Simon is worth something. Karma is a dated concept, but happy to keep you guys entertained in your Towle fox hole. Thursday boredom is the worst…

  41. Gary says

    If you are so into punishment for a comment, you are not American I may just go help find Andrew Sullivan a new bear. Andy will leave a party if his shirt logo is off synch with the others.

  42. Rich says

    There are lots of people who were against marriage equality before they were for it. We seem ready to forgive Vaughn Walker and Barack Obama, but not Charles Cooper. Maybe we just need time to evolve our feelings towards him.

    Cooper’s conversion is only of interest to us (excepting his daughter and her fiancée) because he was so visibly on the other side.

    It is also an unfolding of the precise scenario which Harvey Milk laid out by which we would obtain acceptance by the general population.

    For those, for doctrinal or other reasons, for whom the story of the Prodigal Son resonates, perhaps an examination of your consciences is in order.

  43. JMC says

    Obama? Talk about a false equivalency. Recanting support for marriage equality for political expediency is sh*tty, but this guy DEFENDED PROP 8 IN COURT. He’s garbage, and I 100% believe he took that case on knowing his daughter was gay.

  44. Bill says

    @KevinVT : Pointing out phenomena such as path dependencies for explaining what we observe in the real world is not an “excuse” for someone. It is simply describing what is probably going on here. The idea that he’s changed his mind purely because of his daughter ignores the fact that with recent court decisions, business in the “oppose same-sex marriage” area is drying up. A model in which an attorney simply tries to maximize his income seems to fit his behavior, and that is what attorney’s generally do. He may or may not be a bigot, but you can’t tell from the cases he has – attorneys are hired to represent clients, not to push their own agendas at a client’s expense.

    @Ernie : it is obvious that you are desperate since you latched onto a trivial typo. Whether you like it or not, path dependency is relevant in describing how various individuals careers can differ.

  45. Topol says

    Methinks he’s trying to keep his conservative clients by claiming that his views have evolved.

    The legal profession is notorious for demanding that lawyers set aside their own principles and morals for their clients. In some cultures, it is considered a profession to avoid because you may be called upon to defend a guilty man, or, in this case, argue for a policy you do not support.

  46. Bill says

    @Topol: an alternative way of saying basically the same thing is that he figured that saying his views had evolved sounds better than “I accepted the gig because they paid me, although personally I couldn’t care less.”

    In an example of honesty that outrages the “righteous”, a Dutch actor who played Jesus commented, “I thought, ‘This is a world where we have slasher movies and porn movies – why are people going to get upset about this?’ Of course, that was naive. Politically, it was used as a rallying point to satisfy an agenda that had nothing to do with the movie. I remember, at the time, I was still a smoker and Martin didn’t want anyone to get a picture of ‘Jesus’ with a cigarette. I thought, ‘That’s weird.'” –

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