CHAD GRIFFIN
37 | PRESIDENT, AMERICAN FOUNDATION FOR EQUAL RIGHTS

After Proposition 8 ended marriage equality in California two years ago, political operative Chad Griffin had an epiphany. If voters weren't going to accept gay marriage—it's now been defeated in all 31 states where it has appeared on the ballot—he would have to change the rules of the game. "We kept losing because we spent hundreds of millions of dollars playing against our opponents' playbooks," Griffin says. So he set his sights on the legal system, launching the American Foundation for Equal Rights, recruiting Democratic lawyer David Boies and former Bush solicitor general Theodore Olson as co-counsel, and taking Proposition 8 to court. Some of the greatest resistance came from the gay establishment, which balked at his we-want-it-now approach, and the ACLU, which called Griffin's constitutional challenge "premature." But he pressed forward, taking the case to trial, and in August he won the verdict that overturned Proposition 8. Perry v. Schwarzenegger is now being appealed and may not reach the Supreme Court for years, but Griffin has already succeeded in pushing the debate into territory others were afraid to explore. "There are some who are saying that we should have waited a dozen years," he says. "But the time is never perfect to advance a civil right."

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