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HRC put the screws to law firm clients to get what they wanted

HRC put the screws to law firm clients to get what they wanted

I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: gays are lousy chess players.  The ability to think big picture completely escapes these groups:

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.

Congratulations on taking an action that ultimately accomplished nothing.  The guy driving the bus on DOMA’s defense in still behind the wheel, and the only thing that’s changed is where he’ll hang his hat.

Not everyone is as impressed with the HRC as they obviously are with themselves:

Andrew Sullivan:

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.

IGF Culture Watch:

While I think there is great merit in the argument that people and organizations deserve the best representation they can procure even when (or especially when) they are unpopular, I’m not quite sure a law that the executive branch won’t defend is entitled to the same rights.

Nevertheless, there is something deeply disturbing about targeting not just the counsel of the opposition (King & Spalding) but also asking corporate clients to stop doing business with that firm (e.g., Coca Cola), as suggested in this report:

gay rights organizations including the Human Rights Campaign and the group Georgia Equality…planned an aggressive ad campaign, direct communication with the firm’s clients, and a diminution of its Corporate Equality Index ranking—the metric HRC uses to track corporate support for gay rights.


I believe the constitutional case against DOMA (section 3, non-federal recognition of state-authorized same-sex marriages) is sound and will eventually win the day. But strong-arming the opposition’s legal defense team and going after the firm’s clients is deeply disturbing.


Appellate litigator, and adjunct professor Steve Sanders, who was the HRC’s state coordinator for Indiana from 1998 to 2002 and also a member of the Obama campaign’s LGBT steering and policy committee:

For those of us who believe the law requires marriage equality for gays and lesbians, the firm’s decision to drop the DOMA matter is indeed, as Ben Smith of Politico writes, “a real victory for supporters of same-sex marriage — and mark[s] what seems like real marginalization for its foes.”  But as a lawyer who recently worked in the Supreme Court and appellate practice group of a major national law firm, I’ve found myself uncomfortable with the demonization of Clement and K&S and with the insistence by some gay-rights supporters that defending DOMA’s constitutionality is not only legally wrong but morally unconscionable.  Those who would label lawyers like Clement as (at best) amoral mercenaries do not understand how the world of public-law appellate litigation works.

My previous posts on this echo the above positions:  attacking the lawyer defending DOMA (and now, big name clients of that firm) is a waste of resources and effort in the wrong direction.




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