The American Foundation for Equal Rights (AFER) began after California passed its infamous Proposition 8 in 2008, which denied the right to marry to LGBT people. It was formed as a support to the plaintiffs in the Hollingsworth v. Perry case brought forth by Theodore B. Olson and David Boies on behalf of two couples.
The sole supporter of the case, AFER sued the state of California, claiming that it had violated the 14th Amendment, which guarantees due process and equal protection to all people. The passage of Proposition 8 was seen as an intrusion into life, liberty and property by the government.
AFER argues that the ability to marry whomever we want is a basic civil right, and that it is unconstitutional to deny that to anyone. The United States District Court for the Northern District of California declared Prop 8 unconstitutional in 2010, as did the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in 2012. Now the issue has reached the Supreme Court, the highest court in the United States. Hollingsworth v. Perry will soon have its final verdict, as the court has agreed to review the case this year.
AFER is particularly unique as an organization because of its bipartisan coalition. Olson and Boies are on opposite ends of the political spectrum—Conservative and Liberal, respectively—yet they have come together through the organization to represent millions of people. AFER’s board consists of a diverse collection of faces, from President Bruce Cohen to board members Chad Griffin of the HRC and Ken Mehlman of Project Right Side.
AFER brings together people, erasing the boundaries and labels we so often put on others and ourselves. An article in the New York Times puts it succinctly:
“This emerging group of donors is not quite like any other fund-raising network that has supported gay-related issues over the past 40 years. They come from Hollywood, yes, but also from Wall Street and Washington and the corporate world; there are Republicans as well as Democrats; and perhaps most strikingly, longtime gay organizers said, there has been an influx of contributions from straight donors unlike anything they have seen before.”