Marriage Equality

03.27.13

The Truth About Ted Olson's Gay Marriage Views

I can personally attest that Ted Olson's politics on this issue have not changed

We linked yesterday to an Los Angeles Times profile of Ted Olson. Olson, co-counsel in Perry v. Hollingsworth (the California Proposition 8 case), successfully argued the Republican case in Bush v. Gore, then served as President George W. Bush's Solicitor General.

The LAT suggests Olson's support for the gay rights cause is due to the influence of the woman he married after the murder of Barbara Olson, his wife Lady Booth.

It is a matter of considerable discussion in Washington how much Olson has changed since his marriage to Lady Booth — who is named after an aunt — and whether it has anything to do with his apostasy on gay marriage.

"I think everybody thinks she's changed Ted," said Rosalie Blair, the eye surgeon in Washington who introduced them. "She's certainly made him a little bit — people will say — a kinder, gentler Ted."

Olson says he doesn't think his politics have changed …

On this issue, I can attest personally that Olson's politics have not changed.

I vividly remember a dinner with Ted and Barbara Olson in February 2001. In those days, my in-laws spent most of the month of February in Florida, and they always stopped to see their grandchildren and (afterthought) my wife and me on their drives south and north from Toronto. The Olsons kindly invited the four of us to dinner during the stopover, which is how I can be so sure of the month; I can be sure of the year because the dinner was the last time my in-laws saw Barbara. She was murdered in the hijacking of American AIrlines Flight 77 on September 11, 2001.

I don't remember how or why the issue of same-sex marriage arose during the dinner, but it did. The balance of opinion at the time was 4-1 against Ted, with Barbara mostly preserving a discreet (and unusual!) silence on the subject. Ted argued very passionately that gays were entitled to every right of straight Americans, and drove home his point by itemizing instances of antisemitic discrimination that he, a Gentile, had battled at the beginning of his legal career. This is no different, he insisted. Near the end of the discussion, he predicted that the country - and everybody at the table - would come round to his view sooner or later, probably sooner.

I have had the pleasure of knowing both Barbara and Lady Booth, both of them delightful and supremely intelligent delightful women. At Ted's marriage to Lady Booth, she offered a touching toast at dinner to the memory of "your beautiful Barbara" - an act of generosity that awed the whole room. Wives and husbands always influence each other, and I'm sure that Lady Booth has been a powerful influence upon Ted in many ways. But on this issue, he thinks the same today as he did 12 years ago. I know. I was there.