WASHINGTON — The Human Rights Campaig called the decision of the law firm King & Spalding to take up the House Republican leadership's defense of the Defense of Marriage Act a shameful stain on the firm's reputation. Earlier today it was revealed that firm partner Paul Clement would represent House leaders in their quest to preserve discrimination against loving married couples.
"The firm of King & Spalding has brought a shameful stain on its reputation in arguing for discrimination against loving, married couples," said HRC President Joe Solmonese. "No amount of taxpayer money they rake in will mitigate this blemish on the King & Spalding name."
Reports indicate that Clement's hourly fees could top $1000, making his role in defending DOMA a pricy proposition. In fact, it has been reported that Clement received a $5 million signing bonus at the firm, showing just how expensive this kind of representation is. Given that there are as many as nine lawsuits in federal court challenging the constitutionality of Section 3 of DOMA, the bill to taxpayers could reach the tens of millions of dollars.
"Now we know why Speaker Boehner signed on to the right-wing plan this morning to strip money from the Justice Department to defend DOMA. The price tag for this elite representation is going to be staggering and he's got to try and find the money somewhere," said Solmonese. "This move is a jobs plan solely for high-priced lawyers bent on defending discrimination."
King & Spalding had most recently scored a 95 percent on HRC's Corporate Equality Index — a measure of a company's workplace policies and practices as they relate to their LGBT employees. On the firm's own website they even promote their LGBT diversity initiatives: www.kslaw.com/About-Us/Diversity/LGBT. Last month, HRC sent a letter to the nation's largest law firms urging them not to take up DOMA's defense (bit.ly/fConJn&. Noting that the legal sector has the largest number of top-scoring companies in HRC's corporate ratings, Solmonese wrote: "It is critical that your organization not undermine that laudable record by representing the House in its defense of this discriminatory and unconstitutional law, which denies loving gay and lesbian couples the fair and equal treatment that they deserve from their federal government."
"In taking up DOMA's defense, the firm is aiding and abetting an effort to score cheap political points on the backs of same-sex couples," said Solmonese. "King & Spalding was not required to take up this defense and should be ashamed of associating themselves with an effort to deny rights to their fellow citizens."
Many unanswered questions remain with the news of King & Spalding's involvement, including:
· What will the price tag be for this defense and will the House pay the full rate of the firm's services? If the House pays a discounted rate, how does King & Spalding explain to its clients and LGBT employees that it is subsidizing the defense of this a discriminatory law?
· Will House leaders or the firm disclose the terms of the contract?
· The firm is registered to lobby on Capitol Hill and has spent millions on lobbying efforts. Could the firm be taking this case as a way to garner favor with House leaders for their clients and what kind of ethical conflicts does this raise?
· Does the firm have internal guidelines that prevent it from taking cases that defend the second-class status of some citizens? Were the guidelines followed?
The Human Rights Campaign is America's largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against LGBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.