Les Zuke, director of communications for King & Spalding, issued a statement this morning that the firm founded in Atlanta would no longer defend DOMA.
“Today the firm filed a motion to withdraw from its engagement to represent the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group of the House of Representatives on the constitutional issues regarding Section III of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act. Last week we worked diligently through the process required for withdrawal," Robert D. Hays Jr., the firm's chairperson, said in a statement.
“In reviewing this assignment further, I determined that the process used for vetting this engagement was inadequate. Ultimately I am responsible for any mistakes that occurred and apologize for the challenges this may have created," Hays added.
Breaking: King & Spalding announces it will not defend DOMA
A press conference and protest planned by HRC and Georgia Equality for Tuesday, April 26, has been officially canceled, said Georgia Equality Executive Director Jeff Graham.
Graham said today that King & Spalding made the right decision to drop out of defending the anti-gay legislation.
“I’m glad they realized they were wrong after the public outcry,” he said. “Once again this shows the power the LGBT community has when we are united and speak very forcefully.”
However, all is not forgiven just yet. More information needs to be made available about how the firm agreed to take the case in the first place, Graham said.
“And we need assurances that they won’t turn around and do this kind of thing again,” he said.
HRC President Joe Solmonese issued a statement this morning in response.
“King & Spalding has rightly chosen to put principle above politics in dropping its involvement in the defense of this discriminatory and patently unconstitutional law. We are pleased to see the firm has decided to stand on the right side of history and remain true to its core values.
“Speaker Boehner is likely to pursue continued defense of this odious law. However, law firms that value LGBT equality should remain committed to those values.”
Lambda Legal Legal Director Jon Davidson issued a statement today, saying he is glad King & Spalding is back on the “right side of history.”
“Today, we learned once again that it is a bad idea to defend anti-gay bias and discrimination in court, and fewer and fewer people are willing to do it. We welcome the news that the law firm, King and Spalding, has decided to withdraw from the engagement to represent House leadership in defending DOMA,” Davidson said.
“We were very surprised and disappointed when King and Spalding accepted this assignment, because they have been supporters of LGBT equality in the past. We thought we might have to face them in court as adversaries in our case, Golinski v. OPM — and we were ready to do that. But I guess their sense of justice got the better of them — and that’s good news for all of us.
“Some attorney will no doubt accept this job and defend DOMA in court on behalf of the House leaders – that’s the way the legal system works. We’re just glad it is not a law firm that has shown respect and support for their own LGBT attorneys, for our community and for our fight for equality. We welcome the firm back to the right side of history,” Davidson added.
Evan Wolfson, founder and president of Freedom to Marry, also issued a statement praising King & Spalding for its reversed decision.
“In America, every person deserves a defense, but not every position does. King & Spalding has recognized what President Obama, the Department of Justice, and many members of Congress have joined Freedom to Marry in concluding: federal marriage discrimination and the so-called ‘Defense of Marriage Act’ are indefensible,” Wolfson said.
“Freedom to Marry commends the many voices within the firm and outside, including the Human Rights Campaign, who spoke up against firm’s hasty and wrong-headed decision to take on the defense of discrimination. DOMA is an odious, oppressive law passed to exclude loving and committed couples from equal respect for their marriages; it cannot be defended without reliance on stereotypes and fears that do not stand up under the Constitution. The House leaders pushing this abuse of taxpayer money to find a hired gun to defend DOMA should follow King & Spalding’s lead and reconsider whether they really want to be on the side of unfairness and the wrong side of history.”
Last week, Metro Weekly broke the news that King & Spalding put a gag order on its attorneys and employees from speaking publicly about their views on DOMA.
While the national HRC issued a call for action targeting King & Spalding, some Atlantans joined in with their disappointment with the otherwise gay-friendly firm’s decision to defend DOMA by sending emails to officials in the Atlanta-based office.