Law firm won’t defend “Defense of Marriage Act”

The law firm hired to defend a federal law defining marriage as only being between heterosexual couples stepped away from the job today, in a move seen as a victory for gay rights supporters.

The King and Spalding law firm had been hired to defend the “Defense of Marriage Act,” Congress’ attempt to block gay marriage by defining marriage as unions between men and women.

Now, the firm was withdrawn amid criticism that taking on the case would reflect badly on the firm and make it difficult to hire top legal talent in the future, according to the New York Times.

The outside counsel was necessary for House Speaker John Boehner after several judges ruled the law unconstitutional, and the federal justice department under U.S. Attorney Eric Holder said it wouldn’t defend the law any longer.

Note: An earlier version of this post said the firm cited criticism as a reason for leaving. Officially, the firm said the decision to take on the case hadn’t gone through the proper channels. Apologies for any confusion.

3 Comments

  1. David

    April 26, 2011 at 1:09 am

    “Now, the firm was withdrawn citing concerns that it would reflect badly on the firm and make it difficult to hire top legal talent in the future, according to the New York Times.”

    This is most certainly not what the New York Times reported. According to the Times, “Gay rights groups had fiercely criticized the law firm… saying that its agreement to defend the law… would hurt its ability to recruit and retain lawyers.” The Times did report the firm’s stated reason for withdrawing from the case, quoting the law firm’s chairman, Robert D. Hays Jr.: “In reviewing this assignment further, I determined that the process used for vetting this engagement was inadequate.”

    The Times’ reporter, however, seems somewhat reluctant to accept this statement at face value, writing, “It remains unclear why the leadership of King & Spalding chose to withdraw from the contract to defend the constitutionality of the marriage act,” and, “The statement from Mr. Hays did not cite pressure from gay advocacy groups as a reason for the change. His stated reason — that the approval process for taking on the assignment was inadequate — could refer to a clause in the contract with House Republicans that prohibited the firm’s lawyers from any advocacy for or against bills that would change or repeal the marriage act.”

    There’s more, but you get the point. I fiercely oppose DOMA, and this law firm’s withdrawal may, indeed, be a victory for those who agree with me. But it is, at best, dishonest to attribute to the law firm positions put forward by its critics when the firm acts in conformance with its citics’ wishes while specifically stating as its reason a concern quite unrelated to its critics’ claims, particularly a plausible one.

    Let’s leave the sloppy thinking to those who would make the U.S a “Christian nation.” Progressives should do better than that.

  2. David

    April 26, 2011 at 1:21 am

  3. Sarah Ovaska

    April 26, 2011 at 9:39 am

    Thanks for that link, David. And I’d agree with you on your points, though the firm didn’t come out and say criticism was the reason, all signs seemed to be pointing that way. Thanks for reading, and for pointing that out.