Campus role in overturning Proposition 8

Lead plaintiff gained a commitment to social justice at UC Santa Cruz

Kris Perry

Merrill College alumna Kris Perry, center, stands with her son, Elliott, a UC Santa Cruz sophomore, and Kelly Weisberg, professor of law at UC Hastings College of Law, during a visit to UCSC Monday.

UC Santa Cruz alumna Kris Perry, a plaintiff in the landmark lawsuit that overturned California's ban against same sex marriage, described first the process of coming out in college and the decisions that followed later to challenge Proposition 8.

Perry described the 2009 lawsuit she and her partner Sandy Stier filed as “putting hate on trial,” during a talk Monday (October 13) at Kresge College. “I care about social justice because I care about human rights,” said Perry (Merrill, '86, psychology and sociology).

"UC Santa Cruz and social justice are so intertwined, " she said. "It gets in your head."

Kelly Weisberg, professor at UC Hastings School of Law and founder of the new 3+3 law program at UC Santa Cruz, introduced Perry, saying she “epitomizes the commitment to social justice that is a founding value of UC Santa Cruz. Her legal case is a landmark decision in the gay rights movement.”

In 2008, Perry was working with celebrity activist Rob Reiner at First 5 California, a state agency he helped create dedicated to child health development. Reiner asked if she and Stier would be interested in joining lawyers Ted Olson and David Boies and fellow plaintiffs to sue the very government she worked for.

In 2010, a federal judge ruled Proposition 8 was unconstitutional. His decision was upheld, first by a federal appeals court, and later by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Perry has had prominent career in the child advocacy and policy field. In 2012, she was appointed executive director of the First Fives Years Fund, a bipartisan advocacy group devoted to early childhood education for disadvantaged children. Perry and Stier married for the third legal time in June 2013. Perry and Stier currently live in Washington, D.C. and have four sons.