Friday, April 22, 2011

Congress to defend DOMA with your tax dollars

Okay, so the country is divided pretty equally on marriage equality, with a narrow majority favoring equality. If you throw civil unions into the mix, there is a strong majority in favor of some form of recognition of committed gay couples. The anti-equality folks are slipping further the fringe, equating gays with incest and pedophila.

As we've discussed many times, DOMA prevents the federal government from recognizing legal marriages between same sex partners from Equality States. So, for example, the federal government treats me and my wife as single despite our valid marriage license.

Not surprisingly, there are a number of cases in various circuits of the federal court system challenging this on equal protection grounds (again, we've covered them extensively here at GMC). With the decision of the Obama administration not to defend DOMA, Congress has stepped in. Speaker Boehner has allotted $500,000 to a politically powerful law firm, King and Spalding, to defend these DOMA cases.

Now, while that's a lot of money, in the grander scheme of things, it's not really much at all. The Prop8 trial so far has cost more than $1.5million in attorney fees to Ted Olson's firm. And that's just for ONE case.  Poliglot uncovers evidence that the $500,000 from the government is no cap at all. That is, you the taxpayer may be on the hook for millions and millions of dollars to defend the following multiple cases:

In addition to the Windsor v. United States case in which King & Spalding attorney Paul Clement already has filed a motion on behalf of the BLAG seeking to intervene in the case, two appeals in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit (Gill v. Office of Personnel Management and Massachusetts v. United States), a case at the trial court level in Connecticut (Pedersen v. Office of Personnel Management) and federal court employee Karen Golinski's attempt in a federal court in California to get health benefits for her wife (Golinski v. Office of Personnel Management) are ongoing, there also are six other cases listed by the Department of Justice in a Feb. 25 memorandum sent by Assistant Attorney General Robert Weich to Boehner as being impacted by the DOJ DOMA decision.
And in the final irony, the law firm King and Spalding boasts of its gay-friendly diversity policies.

But wait--there's more.

The government contract to K&S specifically forbids attorneys at the firm from advocating for DOMA repeal, even if they are not involved in the litigation. Yes, apparently, they are trying to muzzle the personal activities of individuals not involved in the case.

Metroweekly tells us that this muzzle may be illegal in some states.
Jon Davidson, the legal director at Lambda Legal, told Metro Weekly that in some states the provision might be illegal. Davidson specifically pointed to California, where King & Spalding has two offices, in which Labor Code Section 1101 states that "[n]o employer shall make, adopt, or enforce any rule, regulation, or policy ... [f]orbidding or preventing employees from engaging or participating in politics ...."

Talking about the statute, which would be applicable in King & Spalding's San Francisco and Silicon Valley offices, Davidson said, "It's not just illegal, it's criminal. It also gives rise to civil liability."

Neither of the two partners named on King & Spalding's "LGBT Lawyers" page on its website – Diversity Committee chair Samuel M. Matchett or Sam Griffin – responded to multiple requests seeking comment about the impact of the DOMA representation on LGBT recruitment at the firm.
Disgusting as it is, there is a certain irony to this.

The firm chosen to defend DOMA prides itself on LGBT diversity. I'm sure they are bright and accomplished. So that suggests that LGBT unfriendly firms with the appropriate qualifications maybe aren't so sharp (we saw that in some of the Prop8 case work). The sad thing, though, is that the firm in question is willing to sell its principles for money.

What a perfect Republican firm THAT is.

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