WASHINGTON (BP)–The U.S. House of Representatives lost a law firm but retained a lawyer April 25 in its effort to defend the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act.
King and Spaulding, a Washington, D.C., law firm, announced it was withdrawing from an agreement announced only a week earlier to represent the House in its planned intervention in federal court to defend the law after President Obama ordered the Department of Justice off the case. The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) defines marriage in federal law as being between a man and a woman and empowers states to refuse to recognize another state’s “gay marriages.”
Paul Clement, the King and Spaulding partner chosen to defend DOMA on behalf of the House, resigned shortly after his firm announced its withdrawal. In announcing his immediate departure from King and Spaulding, Clement said he would continue to represent the House as a member of another firm, Bancroft PLLC. Clement, U.S. solicitor general under President George W. Bush, has argued more than 50 cases before the Supreme Court.
Clement’s resignation came in response to King and Spaulding’s decision to withdraw from the case, he said in his resignation letter. Clement said his resignation was “not because of strongly held views” about the law.
“Instead, I resign out of the firmly-held belief that a representation should not be abandoned because the client’s legal position is extremely unpopular in certain quarters,” Clement wrote. “Defending unpopular positions is what lawyers do…. Much has been said about being on the wrong side of history…. When it comes to the lawyers, the surest way to be on the wrong side of history is to abandon a client in the face of hostile criticism.”
Robert Hays, King and Spaulding’s chairman, did not give a reason for withdrawing from the case, according to Politico, other than saying he “determined that the process used for vetting this engagement was inadequate.”
Homosexual organizations pressured King and Spaulding after it was announced the law firm would defend DOMA. The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) — the country’s largest organization promoting homosexual, bisexual and transgender equality — started an effort to inform law schools and the firm’s clients of King and Spaulding’s defense of “discrimination.”
After King and Spaulding withdrew, HRC President Joe Solmonese said the organization is “pleased to see the firm has decided to stand on the right side of history and remain true to its core values.”
Rep. Dan Lungren, R.-Calif., chairman of the House Administration Committee, commended Clement’s action, saying in a written statement, “I admire his unwavering commitment to his clients and his dedication to uphold the law — qualities that appear to be inconsequential at King and Spalding where politics and profit now appear to come first.”
Federal courts are divided over the constitutionally of DOMA. Technically, the current lawsuits only target half of the Defense of Marriage Act — the part that defines marriage in federal law. The other half of DOMA gives states the option of not recognizing another state’s “gay marriages.” Obama, though, has made clear he opposes the law, and a March 2 story in The Los Angeles Times said homosexual groups are ready to target the entire law if they win the current cases.
If the lawsuits against DOMA are successful, then the federal government for the first time would be forced to recognize the “gay marriages” of states such as Massachusetts and to grant federal benefits to same-sex couples. Eventually, all 50 states could be forced to recognize such “marriages.”
Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, also applauded Clement.
“We commend Paul Clement for standing firm in the face of homosexual activists who seek to censor any opposition — even in the courtroom — to their campaign to overturn the marriage laws of 45 states,” he said in a statement. “It is a shocking revelation that King & Spalding would rather lose their most brilliant and talented Supreme Court lawyer than confront a smear campaign by homosexual activists.
“In the American system, everyone is entitled to have a good lawyer to make the best constitutional arguments. This puts the court in the best position to reach the right result. In the case of DOMA, having very good aggressive lawyers on both sides is what will put the courts in the best position correctly to hold that DOMA is perfectly constitutional.”
Compiled by Tom Strode, Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, and Michael Foust, associate editor of Baptist Press.