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Major Law Firm, King And Spalding, Pulls Plug On Defending DOMA, Rejects Being Used By Republicans

April 26, 2011

This is what I like to see.

First, an all-out attempt by gay right organizations to make it clear that a law firm should not be in any way defending DOMA.

Second, a large law firm, in this case King and Spalding, that put principal and the larger national interests ahead of the GOP gay bashing agenda.

While conservatives are all up in the air over the decision by  King and Spalding to drop being the legal representatives for the House Republicans who still want to bash gay American who wish to marry, liberals and many others are mighty pleased.

Wow, so it looks like the right is trying to make a major issue out of the fact that leading gay rights advocates used some heavy-duty pressure tactics to get the law firm King and Spalding to drop their case defending the Defense of Marriage Act for House Republicans.

I just got off the phone with the Human Rights Campaign, the gay advocacy group that’s in the right’s crosshairs. The group’s response, in a nutshell: Deal with it.

The latest round got started this morning, when the Weekly Standard published an internal email from the Human Rights Campaign detailing that HRC had “contacted many of the firm’s clients” as part of its campaign to get King and Spalding to drop the case. Right wing bloggers, such as Jennifer Rubin, are pouncing on this as proof that the left engaged in an “unprincipled campaign” of intimidation to deprive the House of Representatives of legal representation.

Far from being abashed about this campaign, Fred Sainz, a spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign, shared new details about it. He confirmed to me that his group did indeed contact King and Spalding clients to let them know that the group viewed the firm’s defense of DOMA as unacceptable.

Sainz said his group did not ask any of the firm’s clients to drop the firm in retaliation for taking the case, as is being assumed by conservatives who are alleging an untoward pressure campaign. Rather, he said, his group informed the firm’s clients that taking the case was out of sync with King and Spalding’s commitment to diversity, which it proudly advertises on its Web site.

“King and Spalding’s clients are listed on its web site, so we did what you would expect us to do,” Sainz told me. “We are an advocacy firm that is dedicated to improving the lives of gays and lesbians. It is incumbent on us to launch a full-throated educational campaign so firsm know that these kinds of engagements will reflect on the way your clients and lawschool recruits think of your firm.”

“We did all of this, and we’re proud to have done it,” added Sainz, who declined to name which King and Spalding clients his group contacted.

Conservatives are insisting that King and Spalding’s decision to drop the DOMA case unfairly deprived the House GOP of legal representation in response to political pressure. But Sainz pushed back hard on that idea, pointing out that law firms are not obliged to take any case.


  1. ruth takahashii permalink
    April 29, 2011 12:56 AM

    Liberals don’t want both sides to be heard-just their side.
    That’s why Eric Holder is shirking his duty to defend the
    Defense of Marriage act before the SCOTUS-despite the fact
    hundreds of millions of Americans want both sides of the issue heard before the Court.

    How does Holder expect us to have confidence in a process where one side is not permitted to be heard.
    Typical liberal:The end justifies the means.

    I voted for President Obama not fully understanding how deep and profound is his dministration’s hatred towards Christians such as myself.

    He doesn’t want us to have any representation on this issue. Of course liberals believe even a serial killer deserves his day in court, but apparently not the Christians who voted for this law through their elected representatives.

  2. Patrick permalink
    April 26, 2011 5:58 PM

    It is always appropriate for law firms to represent unpopular, guilty, and immoral clients–pedophiles, rapists, terrorists, etc… What you or I believe about the morality of the cause is not relavant here. Should the firm refuse to represent Walmart if they are accused of discrimination of one form or another? Obviously no. Here we have the simple case of a private lawfirm who has taken a client and then abandoned them for no legitimate reason.

    What if Plessy’s legal representatives had decided they didn’t agree with the morality of his claim and decided to drop him?

    If the firm had declined to take the case in the first place, there would be no story here because–you’re right–the firm was under no moral obligation, but once they agreed to take the take the case they had a moral obligation.

    You also mention that the House GOP stipulated that members of the firm could not speak of the case or related issues; this is common practice. Could you imagine an employee of the firm commenting on his or her blog that they thought ageism was bogus while the firm is defending Walmart on such a case?

  3. April 26, 2011 3:42 PM


    This case (DOMA) makes as much sense to me as Plessy v. Ferguson, where a black man was not able to sit in a white train car. We know that custom, usage, and tradition were major factors then, but was the case a moral one that any law firm should have defended from the side of Ferguson? I would argue no. While it is sometimes appropriate for lawyers to represent unpopular clients when a important principle is at issue, with DOMA the only principle to defend is discrimination and second-class citizenship for gay Americans. Since the law firm in thos post also represents Coke, Google, Walmart….and many, many others world-wide there was no way to defend this case and not me mocked or worse all along the way. There was also the attempt by the House GOP to not allow anyone in the law firm from commenting in any way on any other gay marriage bill or issuse, pro or con, as long as the firm had the case. Too much to ask, and all for the sake of continued discrimination.

  4. Patrick permalink
    April 26, 2011 2:02 PM

    While it is true that no firm is required to take a case, once a firm does take a case it is immoral to leave that client because they hold an unpopular position. The law is supposed to be an advisarial system where even pedophiles are represented vigorously. This is a sad day fror the American legal system. The rest of King and Spalding’s clients should drop them.

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