By Andrew Cohen
Time magazine has named Theodore Olson ’65 to this year’s “Time 100,” its annual list of the world’s 100 most influential people. Olson and fellow attorney David Boies were recognized for their work in leading the legal challenge to Proposition 8, the California constitutional amendment that eliminates marriage rights for same-sex couples.
Describing Olson and Boies as “lions of America’s legal establishment,” the magazine profile says they “remind us that the ideas binding us together in our constitutional democracy are far more important than those separating us.” Both were honored in the Thinkers category of the Time 100 list—which also recognizes influential leaders, heroes, and artists—and feted at the Time 100 Gala on May 4 in New York. The write-up on Olson and Boies is available here, and the full Time 100 list here.
Already well known in legal circles, Olson and Boies became nationally famous as opposing counsels in Bush v. Gore, the U.S. Supreme Court case that halted the Florida recount and resolved the 2000 Presidential election in favor of Olson’s client, George W. Bush.
In the Proposition 8 case, Olson and Boies served as plaintiffs’ co-counsel during a three-week trial early this year at the U.S. District Court in San Francisco. Closing arguments are scheduled for June 16, and the case is expected to reach the Supreme Court—no novelty for Olson, who has argued 56 cases there and won more than 75 percent of them.
A partner in the Washington, D.C. office of Gibson Dunn and co-chair of the firm’s appellate and constitutional law practice group, Olson was U.S. Solicitor General under Bush from 2001–2004 and also served in the Reagan administration. While his involvement in the Proposition 8 case has sparked some consternation among fellow conservatives, Olson contends that same-sex marriage promotes the conservative values of stability and community.
“The right to marry for same-sex couples is one of the most significant civil rights issues we have remaining in this country,” he says. “Working on this case has been a humbling experience and one of the most gratifying representations I’ve handled in my entire career.”