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Gay Rights Group Contacted Law Firm's Clients in Campaign to Intimidate DOMA's Defenders

12:22 AM, Apr 26, 2011 • By JOHN MCCORMACK
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On Monday, the law firm King and Spalding reneged on its agreement to defend the Defense of Marriage Act in federal court. Following the Obama Justice Department's decision not to defend the federal law in court, the U.S. House of Representatives took up the case and hired former U.S. solicitor general Paul Clement, a lawyer at King and Spalding until yesterday, when he quit the firm and joined another in order to honor his commitment. 

Gay Rights Group Contacted Law Firm's Clients in Campaign to Intimidate DOMA's Defenders

King and Spalding's vague reason for dropping the case is that its vetting process was "inadequate," but Republicans are accusing the firm of putting "politics and profit" first. Indeed, the Human Rights Campaign, the country's leading gay rights activist group, took credit for applying the "pressure points" needed to "make it happen."

In addition to its public efforts, the Human Rights Campaign "contacted many of the firm's clients" as part of its campaign against King and Spalding, according to the email sent on behalf of HRC vice president Fred Sainz. The email doesn't provide details about what HRC officials said to King and Spalding's clients, and a spokesman for HRC could not be reached for comment. The email reads in part:

On Monday 4/18 it was revealed that K&S and their partner Paul Clement would represent the House in defending DOMA.  We immediately issued a release (http://www.hrc.org/15538.htm) and followed up with another the next day once the terms of the contract were revealed (http://www.hrc.org/15544.htm).  Later that day we announced the elements of our campaign to show King & Spalding' hypocrisy for taking on Defense of DOMA while touting their pro-gay policies - including their 95% score on HRC's Corporate Equality Index  (http://www.hrc.org/15546.htm).

On Thursday, the LA Times took note, writing an editorial about our campaign with their position on whether DOMA deserved a defense (http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/opinionla/la-ed-doma-20110421,0,161023.story).  Of course we disagreed because while sometimes lawyers have an obligation to represent unpopular clients (in defending the disenfranchised or individuals charged with crimes or in protecting civil liberties), this was clearly not one of those cases.

In the meantime we also contacted many of the firm's clients, LGBT student groups at top law schools and used social media to inform the public about K&S's wrongheaded decision.

The email was "on background" and not intended for public consumption, but THE WEEKLY STANDARD is not on the Human Rights Campaign's email list and not bound by its rules. You can read it here:

-----Original Message-----
From: Charles Joughin on behalf of Fred Sainz
Sent: Mon 4/25/2011 2:37 PM
To: Undisclosed recipients
Subject: Background on K&S dropping DOMA defense

Now that King & Spalding has chosen to be on the right side of history, I wanted to make sure you had the back story of how this all went down and the pressure points applied to make it happen.  This email is ON BACKGROUND but please feel free to call if you'd like to discuss or want information on the record.

First off, this issue arose when the Justice Department, after a thorough analysis, concluded that DOMA was unconstitutional and they could not mount a reasonable defense of it in court.  Speaker Boehner and the Republican majority on the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group voted for the House to intervene in defense of the statute. 

On Monday 4/18 it was revealed that K&S and their partner Paul Clement would represent the House in defending DOMA.  We immediately issued a release (http://www.hrc.org/15538.htm) and followed up with another the next day once the terms of the contract were revealed (http://www.hrc.org/15544.htm).  Later that day we announced the elements of our campaign to show King & Spalding' hypocrisy for taking on Defense of DOMA while touting their pro-gay policies - including their 95% score on HRC's Corporate Equality Index  (http://www.hrc.org/15546.htm).

On Thursday, the LA Times took note, writing an editorial about our campaign with their position on whether DOMA deserved a defense (http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/opinionla/la-ed-doma-20110421,0,161023.story).  Of course we disagreed because while sometimes lawyers have an obligation to represent unpopular clients (in defending the disenfranchised or individuals charged with crimes or in protecting civil liberties), this was clearly not one of those cases.

In the meantime we also contacted many of the firm's clients, LGBT student groups at top law schools and used social media to inform the public about K&S's wrongheaded decision.

We had planned a news conference tomorrow morning in Atlanta and our staff was about to leave for the airport when the news broke (our advisory is here: http://www.hrc.org/15552.htm).  Obviously that event was cancelled and we're thrilled that K&S has decided to stand on the right side of history (today's statement here: http://www.hrc.org/news/15551.htm).

Our involvement in this issue goes back to more than a month ago when we wrote a letter to major US law firms urging them not to take up the case (http://bit.ly/fConJn).  HRC was in the forefront of putting the pieces in place to bring pressure to bear on the firm.

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