Georgia Equality and the Human Rights Campaign will hold a press conference near the King & Spalding law firm Tuesday to “call attention to the hypocrisy of the law firm King & Spalding” for its decision to defend the Defense of Marriage Act for U.S. House Republicans.
Joe Solmonese, president of HRC, will speak at the press conference with Georgia Equality Executive Director Jeff Graham, law students from local universities as well as LGBT families who are affected by DOMA.
Jeff Graham, executive director of Georgia Equality, told GA Voice this week he was disappointed with the iconic Atlanta-based firm, known for advocating and recruiting LGBT attorneys as well as supporting local LGBT causes.
“I’ve known a number of attorneys who worked for King & Spalding — they’ve always had the reputation for being very supportive of our rights,” Graham said. “However, they can’t have it both ways.”
Last year, King & Spalding was a $250 sponsor of Georgia Equality’s “Evening for Equality” event that honors those making a difference in advancing equality and is a fundraiser for the largest state agency advocating for LGBT rights.
Graham said the firm was approached this year for another sponsorship, but long before King & Spalding’s decision last week to agree to defend DOMA. He said the firm never answered whether it would be a sponsor and that now, it would be doubtful Georgia Equality would accept any funds from the firm.
“This decision [by King & Spalding] on such a high-profile case … is very disappointing,” Graham said. “This directly effects the future of LGBT families.”
King & Spalding is a Platinum Sponsor for the Stonewall Bar Association of Georgia and also was a $1,000 sponsor for last year’s Atlanta Gay Men’s Chorus “The Road Leads Back: Georgia On Our Minds.”
Calls to officials with the Stonewall Bar Association of Georgia have not been returned.
Jeff Cleghorn, the past president of Georgia’s Stonewall Bar Association, said in an interview with GA Voice that King & Spalding’s decision to defend DOMA was “disturbing.”
“The decision was made at the highest level in exchange for $500,000,” Cleghorn said. “They have done good things in Atlanta [for LGBT equality] … but that does not give them a blank check.”
King & Spalding, with Paul Clement as the lead attorney, will represent U.S. House Republicans in the defense of DOMA after President Barack Obama announced his administration would not do so after a federal court ruled portions of the legislation are unconstitutional.
The HRC sent out a press release Saturday that states, “[T]he firm will represent Congress at the rate of $520 an hour in taxpayer dollars to argue that they’re right to deny federal recognition and over 1,000 rights and benefits to legally married same-sex couples. Firms are rightly judged on the cases they voluntarily take on and history will not be kind to K&S’s decision to defend institutionalized discrimination.”
King & Spalding’s website touts its LGBT- friendly policies and benefits used to recruit and retain gay attorneys
“DOMA at its core is intended to perpetuate systematic legal discrimination against an entire class of Americans solely because of their sexual orientation,” HRC states in the press release.
“The effect of K&S’s efforts, if successful, would ensure that the federal government is able to continue denying recognition to same-sex couples which includes Social Security survivor benefits, health care for spouses of government employees or even the ability for spouses to be buried together in veteran’s cemeteries,” HRC added.
HRC and Georgia Equality press conference Tuesday, 11 a.m.,
Corner Park, located at 15 th and Peachtree Street, one-half block from the King & Spalding offices. King & Spalding is located at 1180 Peachtree St., Atlanta, GA 30309.