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.
“We have a profound disagreement on the issue of whether or not law firms have the responsibility to take these kinds of civil cases,” Sainz said. “We believe that no law firm has any responsibility to take a case. Firms pass every single day on cases they do not believe are consistent with their reputations. King and Spalding clearly agrees with that.”
This issue is going to continue to heat up. More soon.
UPDATE: Post edited slightly from original.