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Pro-gay Proposition 8 attorney helping Romney campaign with debate prep

CHRIS JOHNSON | Washington Blade
Saturday, September 15, 2012
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A lead attorney in the federal lawsuit against California’s Proposition 8 is facing criticism from a gay Democratic group for assisting the Romney campaign with debate preparation — despite the ticket’s support for policies that would undo his work against the same-sex marriage ban.

Ted Olson, who’s been litigating against Prop 8 on behalf of the American Foundation for Equal Rights, is set to play the role of Vice President Joseph Biden in debate practice against Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan. Buzzfeed and Politico reported the news Saturday morning, which was confirmed to the Washington Blade by Brendan Buck, a Ryan spokesperson working on the Romney campaign.

Michael Key, Washington Blade

Former U.S. Solicitor General Ted Olson.

Joe Biden has been in elected office for more than 40 years,” Buck said. “There are few people in politics with more experience debating the issues than Joe Biden, so we are taking this process seriously. Mr. Olson is one of the most skilled, intelligent, and successful litigators in America– just the kind of opponent needed to prepare the congressman for Mr. Biden.”

Buck said Olson will receive no compensation from the Romney campaign for his role impersonating Biden as part of debate preparation.

But Olson’s involvement with the Romney campaign came to the consternation of one LGBT groups aligned with the Democratic Party.

Jerame Davis, executive director of the National Stonewall Democrats, said Olson’s assistance to the Romney campaign demonstrates the former solicitor general is “subject to the same cognitive dissonance” as other conservative who vote against their own interests in favor of ideological purity.

“After he has spent as much time, money, and reputation on overturning Prop 8 as he has, it’s shocking to learn that Ted Olson would lift a finger to help the Romney-Ryan ticket during debate prep,” Davis said. “The Romney-Ryan ticket stands completely counter to the goals of AFER and Ted Olson’s stated belief that Prop 8 should be overturned. I have always been concerned that the architect of Bush v. Gore was one of the lead attorney’s in the fight to overturn Prop 8, but I honestly never expected Olson to so blatantly contradict his own argument by supporting a ticket that would stand squarely in opposition to what he calls one of the most important cases of his career.”

Olson, who served as U.S. solicitor general under former President George W. Bush, isn’t a stranger to advocating on behalf of Republican presidential candidates. Olson was the lead attorney representing the Bush candidacy in Bush v. Gore, the lawsuit that helped Bush win his first term in the White House. David Boies, who’s partnering with Olson in the Prop 8 lawsuit, represented then-Democratic presidential nominee Al Gore in the lawsuit.

Since his time with the Bush administration, Olson has come out in favor of work in favor of marriage equality — calling his work against Prop 8 the “highlight of my life” — and has spoken before LGBT groups about his support for same-sex marriage. As a result of the litigation that Olson has spearheaded, a U.S. district court in California and the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals have ruled against California’s marriage ban. On September 20, Olson is set to be a keynote speaker at the National Log Cabin Republicans “Spirit of Lincoln” dinner in D.C.

Olson’s assistance with the Romney campaign is noteworthy because both Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and Ryan support policies that would contravene the attorney’s work against Proposition 8. The two candidates backs a U.S. constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage throughout the country. In 2008, Romney donated $10,000 through a political action committee to the anti-gay National Organization for Marriage as part of efforts to pass the Prop 8 at the ballot.

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