In March 2013, conservative lawyer Charles J. Cooper stood before the Supreme Court defending Proposition 8, California’s then-ban on same-sex marriage. Now, just over a year later, Cooper is helping plan his daughter’s same-sex wedding and says his views on the issue are evolving.
The surprise announcement comes in reporter Jo Becker’s upcoming book on the battle over marriage equality.
“What I will say only is that 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 10 years ago,” Cooper told Becker in an excerpt obtained by the Washington Post .
Describing one’s views on marriage law as “evolving” entered the popular lexicon in connection to how President Obama described his own views on the issue during the 2012 presidential election. Other political leaders including Ohio Republican Sen. Rob Portman have used similar language to describe their own policy changes after learning that a child or other family member was gay.
“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,” Cooper said in a statement after his personal policy change was revealed to the press. “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.”
However, the change did not reportedly happen over night. According to Becker, Cooper learned of his daughter Ashley Lininger’s engagement just after the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case over Prop 8 in 2012 . Father and daughter then reportedly debated the issue while Cooper was simultaneously preparing to argue the case before the nation’s highest court.
“I think the most upset I got was being called an ‘experiment’ that people deserved to see the outcome of before accepting,” Lininger told Becker. “It just made me feel — alien, I guess.”
However, Lininger decided to keep her engagement and sexual orientation private until the case’s oral arguments were over.
“I didn’t want, and I didn’t think she wanted, for her and Casey to suddenly become the most famous lesbians in America,” Cooper tells Becker in the book. “But can you imagine how riveting it would have been if at the oral argument I disclosed this? I kind of personified what I was arguing.”
According to LGBT Weekly, Cooper was not aware of his daughter’s sexual orientation when he agreed to take on the case in 2009. He has described himself as an “unrepentant and avowed originalist,” and was the recipient of the Republican lawyer of the year award in 2010.
Despite going head-to-head in the Supreme Court, Cooper was praised by Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffith for his announcement:
“I spent the better part of five years sitting across courtroom aisles from Mr. Cooper, disagreeing with just about every word that came out of his mouth, but I have profound respect for his decision to love and celebrate his daughter and her fiancée because his story reflects the experience of so many of the 90 percent of Americans who personally know someone who is LGBT,” Griffith said in a statement.
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- Charles J. Cooper