Trials & Error

Hollingsworth v. Perry, Same-Sex Marriage on Trial

March 20, 2015

With the Supreme Court about to rule on whether gay and lesbian couples have a constitutional right to marry in the states in which they live, Trials & Error discussed the landmark 2010 case in federal district court, Hollingsworth v. Perry, which struck down Proposition 8 and its ban on same-sex marriage in California. The Perry trial established a factual basis for why same-sex couples should have the right to marry, and reflected the cultural shift in public opinion about the validity and dignity of such unions.
The discussion included law professor and author of Speak Now, Kenji Yoshino, legal correspondent for Slate, Dahlia Lithwick, , and Emmy-winning actress of the iconic comedy Will & Grace (responsible for humanizing same-sex relationships in the broader culture), Debra Messing. A book signing with Kenji Yoshino followed the event.

Watch Hollingsworth v. Perry, Same-Sex Marriage on Trial here.

See more from FOLCS here.

“It was really shocking and overwhelming and humbling because we knew we were doing something potent when we were starting the show (Will and Grace).”

Debra Messing

“I started reading (the case) and I didn’t surface into everyday life again until I had turned the last page, because for me, this was like a shining civil rights document.”

Kenji Yoshino

Kenji Yoshino
Chief Justice Earl Warren Professor of Constitutional Law

Kenji Yoshino is the Chief Justice Earl Warren Professor of Constitutional Law at NYU School of Law. He was educated at Harvard (B.A. summa cum laude 1991), Oxford (M.Sc. 1993 as a Rhodes Scholar), and Yale Law School (J.D. 1996). His fields are constitutional law, anti-discrimination law, and law and literature. He moved to NYU in 2008.

Yoshino is the author of: Speak Now: Marriage Equality on Trial (2015); A Thousand Times More Fair: What Shakespeare’s Plays Teach Us About Justice (2011); and Covering: The Hidden Assault on Our Civil Rights (2006).
Yoshino’s work has appeared in academic journals, including The Columbia Law Review, The Harvard Law Review, The Stanford Law Review, and The Yale Law Journal.

In 2011, Yoshino was elected to the Harvard Board of Overseers for a six-year term. He also serves on the Global Advisory Board for Out Leadership, the Advisory Board of the Center for Talent Innovation, and Deloitte’s Inclusion External Advisory Council. He has received several teaching distinctions, most recently NYU Law’s Podell Distinguished Teaching Award in 2014.


Dahlia Lithwick

Dahlia Lithwick is a senior editor at Slate, and in that capacity, writes the “Supreme Court Dispatches” and “Jurisprudence” columns. Her work has appeared in the New YorkTimes, Harper’s, The New Yorker, The Washington Post, and Commentary, among other places. She won a 2013 National Magazine Award for her columns on the Affordable Care Act. She has been twice awarded an Online Journalism Award for her legal commentary and was the first online journalist invited to be on the Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press.
Ms. Lithwick has testified before Congress about access to justice in the era of the Roberts Court. She has appeared on CNN, ABC, The Colbert Report, and is a frequent guest on The Rachel Maddow Show.

Ms. Lithwick earned her BA from Yale University and her JD degree from Stanford University. She is currently working on a book about the four women justices of the United States Supreme Court.


Debra Messing

Debra Messing is best known for her role on NBC’s Emmy Award-winning comedy series Will & Grace. Messing captivated television audiences worldwide for eight seasons with her comedic brilliance as Grace Adler, an interior designer whose best friend and soul mate is gay. For her work on the popular sitcom, Messing won the 2003 Emmy Award, has earned a total of seven Golden Globe nominations, seven Screen Actors Guild nominations, winning the ensemble award in 2001, five additional Emmy nominations, two American Comedy Award nominations and two People’s Choice Award nominations. She also collected TV Guide’s Actress of the Year in a Comedy Series honor in 2001.

After Will & Grace ended its lengthy run, Messing starred in USA Network’s six-hour television event, The Starter Wife, with Joe Mantegna, Miranda Otto and Judy Davis. The miniseries picked up 10 Emmy nominations, including Messing’s for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie. She also earned a Golden Globe nomination for Best Performance by an Actress in a Mini-Series or a Motion Picture Made for Television. Due to this highly successful run, Messing reprised her role as Molly Kagan in The Starter Wife regular series which completed airing in the Fall of 2008 on USA Network. Debra received a nomination for a Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series – Musical or Comedy for her work on the series.

Messing’s film work also includes two romantic comedies, The Wedding Date, opposite Dermot Mulroney, and the box office hit Along Came Polly, with Ben Stiller and Jennifer Aniston. In 2002, Messing co-starred in Woody Allen’s comedy, Hollywood Ending, opposite Allen and Tea Leoni, and The Mothman Prophecies, opposite Richard Gere and Laura Linney.