Tuesday, April 26, 2011

DOMA Defense Update-- HRC Under Fire for Pressuring Law Firm

When I last touched on Boehner's vow to defend DOMA no matter what the cost (to taxpayers), we learned that the House had hired the law firm King and Spalding at an estimated cost of $500k.  Since then, a couple key developments have taken place.

Perhaps the biggest is that the aforementioned law firm has dropped the case altogether and the Speaker has been forced to find other attorneys to represent the State's interest in the matter.  Why?  Because the HRC (and many other groups, my pals at GetEQUAL included) set their crosshairs on the firm and their clients, asking them to not further the cause of discrimination.

"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 firms know that these kinds of engagements will reflect on the way your clients and lawschool recruits think of your firm.'"

It looks like one of King and Spalding's major clients, Coca-cola, was the one to directly intervene in the matter when approached by the HRC.

"Sources with knowledge of the backlash confirm that one of King & Spalding's top clients, Coca Cola, also based in Atlanta, directly intervened to press the firm to extricate itself from the case.

"A Coca Cola spokesman declined to comment on or off the record for this story, but pointed TPM to the company's long public history of support for equality and diversity."

Some are not happy about HRC's interference in the matter, with right-wing supporters attacking HRC's involvement as un-American, while some lefty bloggers are criticizing the HRC for being unliberal:

"To put pressure on lawyers defending clients or laws because lobby groups don't like them is deeply illiberal. It remains disgusting, for example, that rightwing groups targeted lawyers defending terror suspects and Gitmo prisoners. When the far right did this, it was despicable. Now that the left is doing it, it remains just as despicable.

"Memo to the gay rights leadership: the ends do not justify the means. Let DOMA have the most robust defense it can possibly muster and let us argue just as passionately for its unconstitutionality. When civil rights groups bully, they lose the moral high-ground. When you have men like David Brock leading the charge - and there are no means he has ever eschewed to achieve his ends - the danger is that we prove the far right's point. We must be better than them."

Okay, we all know I'm no big fan of the Human Rights Campaign.  I think they are essentially a bunch of Democrat apologists who spend more time fundraising than actually assisting the process of real change.  I think their abandonment of the trans community is despicable.  However, actions like this?  Where they use their corporate and political clout to wage war against the religious right's insistence that gay Americans are second-class?  Hell yeah, you go HRC!

Because here's the thing:  This isn't a criminal trial.  If it were a criminal trial and we were bullying people into not representing defendants who could be sent to prison for crimes they may not have committed, this would be inexcusable.  But it's not.  This is a civil case, being paid for by American tax dollars in defense of a policy the majority of Americans now do not want.  DOMA doesn't have the right to an attorney in civil cases.

If we can weaken the public perception of the DOMA defense by establishing a media narrative showing that the policy is, in essence, indefensible?  That's not only our right as advocates for the gay community, that's our prerogative and our responsibility.

Congratulations, HRC.  You've shown the LGBT community what you're good for.


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