U.S. Supreme Court

Meet Charles Cooper, the lawyer who will support Prop 8 in arguments today

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Charles Cooper.
Photo from Cooper & Kirk.

The lawyer who will be arguing on behalf of gay marriage today in the U.S. Supreme Court is well known. He’s Ted Olson of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, a conservative who joined with former opponent David Boies in the case.

Less well known is the lawyer defending California’s Proposition 8 referendum banning gay marriage. He’s Charles Cooper of Cooper & Kirk, the Wall Street Journal (sub. req.) reports.

The story describes Cooper as “a lawyer with a genteel Southern tone and a record of championing conservative causes, including preserving gun rights and limiting affirmative action and gay rights.”

Cooper was a former clerk for then-Justice William H. Rehnquist and a member of the Justice Department during the Reagan administration. He succeeded Olson as head of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel in 1985.

Download audio or transcript
of Prop 8 oral arguments.

Roger Clegg, president of the conservative Center for Equal Opportunity, worked with both men. Back then, he told the Wall Street Journal, the two lawyers had a different take on conservatism and even different styles of clothing. “I remember that Ted wore very flamboyant ties and Chuck wore suspenders,” Clegg recalled.

Cooper has made previous Supreme Court appearances. In one case he successfully argued that the government had violated some bank contracts by changing accounting rules during the savings and loan crisis.

In the gay marriage case, Cooper “has avoided putting homosexuality—or even the policy of same-sex marriage—on trial,” the story says. Instead he has argued that citizens should be allowed to make decisions through democratic processes.

The National Law Journal has short profiles of the lawyers arguing the California case on Tuesday and the challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act on Wednesday.

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