David Boies

Civil Rights Summit

Photo Credit: Jonathan Garza | Daily Texan Staff

Though attorneys David Boies and Theodore Olson once argued against each other in front of the Supreme Court, they said they are of one mind about the constitutionality of same-sex marriage.

Boies and Olson joined John Avalon, editor-in-chief of The Daily Beast, to discuss same-sex marriage at the first panel of the Civil Rights Summit on Tuesday.

Boies and Olson — once legal foes in the 2000 Supreme Court case Bush v. Gore, with Olson representing former President George W. Bush and Boise representing former Vice President Al Gore — joined forces and fought to overturn Proposition 8, California’s ban on same-sex marriage, a battle they discussed at the panel, “Gay Marriage: A Civil Right?".

At the panel, Boies said he thinks same-sex marriage is the defining civil rights issue of today.

“We are on the verge of establishing true equality for this group of American citizens, as we have for countless citizens before them,” Boies said. “The same kinds of arguments are always used to justify discrimination.”

Boies said there are clear similarities between the fight for equal rights for same-sex couples and the civil rights movement.

“I think one of the parallels is that, like the battle for racial civil rights, for a long time people denied that this was a civil rights issue,” Boies said. “They defended it on religious grounds, on constitutional grounds, on grounds of tradition, on grounds of protecting the family - all of the ways that we have, over the course of the history of our country, tried to deny one group of our citizens the equal rights that our Declaration of Independence and Constitution promises to everybody.”

According to Olson, denying an individual the right to marry violates rights granted to them by the law.

“Citizens who are gay or lesbian are being denied the fundamental right to marriage and they’re being denied the protection of equal laws in respect to marriage and that takes away their right to dignity,” Olson said. “You’re taking away the person’s decency, their dignity when you’re calling them different.”

Olson, a well-known conservative, said he views same-sex marriage as a constitutional issue, not an ideological issue.

“I would get some messages and I would get some people who were reported in the press as saying I was ‘a traitor to my principles’ and so forth,” Olson said. “If you have principles, you have to be true to your principles and not have other people identify your principles for you.”

Boies said the idea of same-sex marriage, which has received mixed responses from different ideological groups, has been more consistently well-received in courts across the country.

“There are very few principles you can get five or 10 lawyers or judges to agree with completely,” Boies said. “Here, you have more than 30 judges who have considered the issue of gay and lesbian rights since last June, and every one of them….they’ve all ruled the same way. Every one of them have ruled that marriage is a constitutional right and you cannot deprive an individual that right based on their sexual orientation.”

According to Boies, individuals who oppose same-sex marriage do not have a valid argument.

“I’ve always said that part of being a good lawyer is to understand what the best argument is for the other side, and I’m usually pretty good at that,” Boies said. “This is a case in which the other side doesn’t have an argument, they have a bumper sticker that says ‘marriage is between a man and a woman,’ and that’s the question, that’s not the answer.”

Marisa Kent, co-director of the Queer Students Alliance, said there are several issues facing LBGTQ individuals on campus, one of which is finding a place where they feel comfortable.

“What has been an issue for us on campus is having a level of visibility and diversity,” Kent said. “For students who aren’t out or who don’t know where to go to get resources, it’s hard to meet people who are similar and who understand.”

Kent said it’s important for people to discuss same-sex marriage, especially on a national platform, but it is not the most important element in equality for the LBGTQ community.

“Gay marriage is not the linchpin of the LBGTQ community,” Kent said. “That’s not to say it’s not a step in the right direction, but gay marriage does not equal equality for the gay community.”

 

Photo Credit: Jonathan Garza | Daily Texan Staff

Click here for full coverage of the second day of the Civil Rights Summit.

Updated: (8:26 p.m.) For the full story on former President Jimmy Carter's conversation with LBJ Library Director Mark Updegrove at the Civil Rights Summit, click here.

Updated: (7:47 p.m.) Former President Jimmy Carter said there are still racial and women’s rights issues the United States needs to address in a conversation at the Civil Rights Summit on Tuesday.

According to Carter, sexual abuse is major problem not only in the countries around the world that he and the Carter Center work with, but also in universities in the U.S.

“In this country, we are not above—I hate to say condemnation—but we are not hove reproach,” Carter said. “The number one place for sexual abuse is the United States universities.”

Carter also said segregation still exists, especially in public schools in the Deep South.

“We still have gross disparity between black and white people on employment [and] the quality of public education,” Carter said. “A lot of so-called segregation academies were founded so white people could send their kids to a very segregated school.”

—Alyssa Mahoney

Updated: (5:12 p.m.) Mavis Staples and Graham Nash spoke about how their involvement in the civil rights movement affected their songwriting and careers in music at the third panel of the Civil Rights Summit, “Music and Social Consciousness.”

Staples, a rhythm and blues and gospel artist from soul group The Staples Singers, attributes her lifetime as a gospel singer to meeting Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. early in her career.

“I think that if he can preach it, we can sing it,” Staples said.

Updated: (4:02 p.m.) For the full story on the second panel of the Civil Rights Summit, "Pathway to the American Dream: Immigration Policy in the 21st Century," click here.

Updated: (3:05 p.m.) San Antonio mayor Julian Castro and former Mississippi governor Haley Barbour discussed immigrations issues, including the lack of a solid definition of “border security,” as well as students overstaying their visas, during the second panel of the Civil Rights Summit, “Pathway to the American Dream: Immigration Policy in the 21st Century.”

Castro said the U.S. has not “even defined what border security would be.”

Barbour said people who overstay their visas could make up a significant portion of the number of undocumented immigrants in the U.S.

“People who come on a legal visa and don’t go when they’re supposed to… could be four or five million of the 11 million,” Barbour said. 

— Amanda Voeller

Updated: (2:46 p.m.) Though attorneys David Boies and Theodore Olson once argued against each other in front of the Supreme Court, they said they are of one mind about the constitutionality of same-sex marriage. To read a full recap of "Gay Marriage: A Civil Right?" click here.​


(From left) John Avalon, editor-in-chief of The Daily Beast, attorney David Boies and Theodore B. Olson, attorney and former U.S. Solicitor General, speak at the "Gay Marriage: A Civil Right?" panel Tuesday at the LBJ Auditorium. Photo by Jonathan Garza / Daily Texan Staff.

Updated: (1:54 p.m.) The Gay Liberation Front, UT's first gay student activist group, was founded in 1970. Read Eleanor Dearman's story here to find out more about gay students' experiences at UT in the 70's and today. 

Updated: (12:47 p.m.) Although Robert Schenkkan’s family had a longtime relationship with the Johnson family even before Lyndon B. Johnson became president, Schenkkan is perhaps best known for his play “All the Way,” which examines the first months of Lyndon B Johnson’s Presidency and the passage of the Civil Rights Act.

According to Schenkkan, Johnson’s was a Shakespearean figure that was rarely captured in his public image as president.

“He was not just physically big but large in his appetites, his ambitions, his flaws, his faults [and] virtues,” Schenkkan said. “[When] people talk about Lyndon Johnson, it’s always in this combination of the most generous man I ever met, the most savage man I ever met.”

Schenkkan said he thinks the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the state of civil rights today offer many comparisons.

“I think it’s a great time right now, I think in particular, to be reexamining these issues because [of] the widely-held frustration of both sides of the aisle about the gridlock in Congress and seeming inability to accomplish even the most trivial of matters,” Schenkkan said.

— Alyssa Mahoney

Updated (10:26 a.m.): Bob Hutchings, LBJ School of Public Affairs dean, said the LBJ School of Public Affairs will open a center in Washington, D.C. for graduate students who want to spend more time in the capitol.

Hutchings said the LBJ School Washington Center will have an office, permanent staff and classroom space. According to Hutchings, the center will begin enrolling students next year. Although the location has not yet been determined, Hutchings said he hopes it will be located centrally in downtown Washington, D.C. near UT’s Archer Center.

“This is the probably best thing we can do as a public policy school to honor the legacy of President Johnson, namely to empower the next generation, the next get-it-done generation,” Hutchings said at the Civil Rights Summit.

According to LBJ Foundation president Elizabeth Christian, Hutchings' statement is the first public announcement of the LBJ School’s plans to create a Washington, D.C. center.

Hutchings said a major priority of the LBJ School is to continue the legacy of Johnson, which he said he thinks will be aided by establishing the center in Washington, D.C.

“Too few are going into public service,” Hutchings said. “If you don’t like what you see in Washington, get in the arena and change it.”

— Alyssa Mahoney

Updated (9:40 a.m.): The first panel of the summit is titled, "Gay Marriage: A Civil Right?" The panel will be moderated by John Avlon, the editor-in-chief of The Daily Beast and will feature attorneys David Boies and Theodore B. Olson who teamed up in 2010 to challenge Proposition 8 in California, a constitutional amendment that banned gay marriage in the state. The two prevailed at the U.S. Supreme Court in 2013 when the court ruled upheld the district court's decision that deemed Proposition 8 unconstitutional. 

— Alyssa Mahoney

Updated (9:30 a.m.): Here's a quick, 40-second primer on what the Civil Rights Summit will be about.

— Bryce Seifert

National Basketball Players Association executive director Billy Hunter, president Derek Fisher and vice president, former Longhorn Maurice Evans announce the union’s intentions to decertify and file an antitrust lawsuit against the NBA, narrowing the chances of having an NBA season even further.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

NEW YORK — NBA players delivered a resounding but risky response to one more ultimatum from NBA Commissioner David Stern: See you in court.

The players’ association rejected the league’s latest proposal for a new labor deal Monday and began disbanding, paving the way for a lawsuit that throws the season in jeopardy.

Negotiating went nowhere, so now the union is going away.

And Stern said “nuclear winter” is coming.

“We’re prepared to file this antitrust action against the NBA,” union executive director Billy Hunter said. “That’s the best situation where players can get their due process.”

And that’s a tragedy as far as Stern is concerned.

“It looks like the 2011-12 season is really in jeopardy,” Stern said in an interview aired on ESPN. “It’s just a big charade. To do it now, the union is ratcheting up I guess to see if they can scare the NBA owners or something. That’s not happening.”

Hunter said players were not prepared to agree to Stern’s ultimatum to accept the current proposal or face a worse one, saying they thought it was “extremely unfair.” And they’re aware what this battle might cost them.

“We understand the consequences of potentially missing the season; we understand the consequences that players could potentially face if things don’t go our way, but it’s a risk worth taking,” union vice president Maurice Evans said. “It’s the right move to do.”

But it’s risky.

Hunter said all players will be represented in a class-action suit against the NBA by attorneys Jeffrey Kessler and David Boies — who were on opposite sides of the NFL labor dispute, Kessler working for the players, Boies for the league.

“Mr. Kessler got his way, and we’re about to go into the nuclear winter of the NBA,” Stern told ESPN. “If I were a player ... I would be wondering what it is that Billy Hunter just did.”

The league already has filed a pre-emptive lawsuit seeking to prove the lockout is legal and contends that without a union that collectively bargained them, the players’ guaranteed contracts could legally be voided.

During oral arguments on Nov. 2, the NBA asked U.S. District Judge Paul Gardephe to decide the legality of its lockout, but he was reluctant to wade into the league’s labor mess. Gardephe has yet to issue a ruling.

Two years of bargaining couldn’t produce a deal, with owners’ desires for more competitive balance clashing with players’ wishes to keep the salary cap system largely intact. The sides last met Thursday, when the league offered a revised proposal but told the players there would be no further negotiating on it.

Stern, who is a lawyer, had urged players to take the deal on the table, saying it’s the best the NBA could offer and advised that decertification is not a winning strategy.

Players ignored that warning, choosing instead to dissolve the union, giving them a chance to win several billion dollars in triple damages in an antitrust lawsuit.

“This is the best decision for the players,” union president Derek Fisher said. “I want to reiterate that point, that a lot of individual players have a lot of things personally at stake in terms of their careers and where they stand. And right now they feel it’s important — we all feel it’s important to all our players, not just the ones in this room, but our entire group — that we not only try to get a deal done for today but for the body of NBA players that will come into this league over the next decade and beyond.”

Fisher, flanked at a press conference by dozens of player representatives and superstars including Kobe Bryant and Carmelo Anthony, said the decision was unanimous. But there were surely players throughout the league who would have preferred union leadership put the proposal to a vote of the full membership, with many ready to go back to work.

The sides still can negotiate during the legal process, so players didn’t want to write off the season just yet.

“I don’t want to make any assumptions,” union VP Keyon Dooling said. “I believe we’ll continue to try to get a deal done or let this process play out. I don’t know what to expect from this process.”

Hunter said the NBPA’s “notice of disclaimer” was filed with Stern’s office about an hour before the news conference announcing the move. Now, the NBPA is in the process of converting to a trade association as the fight shifts to the courts.

“The fact that the two biggest legal adversaries in the NFL players dispute over the NFL lockout both agree that the NBA lockout is now illegal and subject to triple damages speaks for itself,” Kessler said in an email to The Associated Press. “I am delighted to work together with David Boies on behalf of the NBA players.”

Hunter said the bargaining process had “completely broken down.” Players made numerous economic concessions and were willing to meet the owners’ demands of a 50-50 split of basketball-related income — a transfer of about $280 million annually from their feeling the league’s desires to improve competitive balance would hurt their guaranteed 57 percent under the old deal — but only if the owners met them on their system wishes.

“This deal could have been done. It should have been done,” Hunter said.

Over the weekend, Stern said he would not cancel the season this week.

Regardless, damage already has been done, in many ways.

Financially, both sides have lost hundreds of millions because of the games missed and the countless more that will be wiped out before play resumes. Team employees are losing money, and in some cases, jobs. And both the owners and players eventually must regain the loyalty of an angered fan base that wonders how the league reached this low point after such a strong 2010-11 season.

“It’s horrible,” said Ty Agee, president of the Beale Street Merchants Association in Memphis, Tenn. “This is bad. Personally, I don’t believe they will be able to fix it. This is really, really bad.”

And it was seemingly destined. Hunter said he believed years ago owners were going to lock out the players until they could force through the changes they sought. Given that, he has been criticized for not disbanding the union sooner in hopes of creating some leverage that the union never had.

The proposal rejected by the players called for a 72-game season beginning Dec. 15.

Printed on Tuesday, November 15, 2011 as: NBA announces plans to decentify, file antitrust lawsuit