News (USA)

LGBT legal groups consider breaking ties with DC law firm over DOMA defense

At least two prominent LGBT legal and advocacy groups are re-considering their association with the Washington D.C. law firm that has been retained by the U.S. House GOP leadership to defend the Defense of Marriage Act in federal court.

The announcement Monday by House Speaker John Boehner, (R-Ohio), that former (George W.) Bush Administration Solicitor General Paul Clement and his legal team at King & Spalding had signed on to defend DOMA, has been met with outraged reactions from the LGBTQ community and organizations.

Jon Davidson, legal director of Lambda Legal, the nation’s oldest and largest legal organization working for LGBT equality, told the Huffington Post that he had one word regarding the firm’s decision to take the case: “Depressing.”

“I think it’s going to hurt them in their recruiting of future lawyers,” said Davidson. “As legal director, I would take the position that we should not use them as cooperating attorneys with us — that is, people who work with us on a pro bono basis in cases.”

“I wouldn’t want to team with them, so long as they’re actively harming our community by defending DOMA,” he said.

D’Arcy Kemnitz, the executive director of the National LGBT Bar Association, an affiliate of the American Bar Association, said her group has been hosting a career fair for law students to connect with law firms and other potential employers for nearly a decade.

King & Spalding has attended that event annually — a fact it boasts on its “LGBT Lawyers” website.

Kemnitz said the association may evaluate whether to change that relationship moving forward.

Kemnitz said what is most troublesome is that, in the contract between the U.S. House and King & Spaulding, “sexual orientation and gender identity” were excluded from the non-discrimination clause.

That provision contrasts sharply from language on the firm’s website, which specifically states: “The firm’s non-discrimination policy prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.”

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