Ted Olson, the conservative half of the team arguing for gay marriage in a federal court in California, told the Los Angeles Times that gay marriage is a “conservative value,” among other things, over the weekend.

Along with David Boies, Olson has been hired by the newly-minted American Foundation for Equal Rights (AFER) to represent a gay couple and a lesbian couple who would like to marry but cannot because of Proposition 8, California's voter-approved gay marriage ban upheld as constitutional by the state Supreme Court in May.

Olson-Boies' argument is simple: Marriage is a constitutional right regardless of sexual orientation.

Olson has racked up an impressive conservative record: He's served on the board of directors of American Spectator magazine and in the administrations of Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush. Olson battled Boies on the conservative side of the Supreme Court in the Bush v. Gore case that secured the presidency for Bush.

For outsiders looking in, Olson's support for gay marriage runs afoul of his conservative leanings, a notion Olson rejects, arguing that gay marriage is a conservative value.

“It is a conservative value to respect the relationship that people seek to have with another, a stable, committed relationship that provides the backbone for our community, for our economy. I think conservatives should value that.”

That position, however, has not received a warm welcome by all conservatives. Olson says he has been told that “I'm betraying the conservative cause and things that I've stood for in my life.”

“Some of it is quite hostile,” he says, then adds: “On the other hand, I'm hearing from people, including plenty of Republicans, who are very, very grateful.”

Olson also dismissed criticism from gay rights groups that say a loss in the Supreme Court, where the case is likely headed, could put the movement behind possibly decades.

“In the first place, we believe we can be successful. In the second place, it has been very difficult to win [state] elections, and the California election was an example of that. Three, it's very difficult to tell the people we represent that you must wait until people throughout the country decide to recognize that you are to be treated equally.”

“Not everyone is going to agree with the legal strategy, but we think we are at the right place at the right time in the right court, and we're hopeful we'll be successful.”

Ultimately, Olson says he wants to play a role in securing the right to marry for gay men and lesbians.

“A woman came up to me in our library in our law firm and said, 'You and I haven't worked together, but I'm a lesbian. My partner and I have two children.' And she burst into tears. I put my arm around her and she put her arms around me. This stands for what we're trying to accomplish here. It's a principle that deeply touches human beings. If we're successful, we can help the lives of literally millions of people. And what a great service that would be.”