DOMA: Wise counsel in same-sex marriage controversy
It would be a bit much to confer the title of "Profile in Courage" on Paul Clement, the superlawyer who resigned from his law firm after it caved to gay-rights activists. Clement, a former U.S. solicitor general and a master litigator, already has found gainful employment elsewhere and will continue to represent the House of Representatives in defending the Defense of Marriage Act.
But in leaving the firm of King & Spalding, Clement offered an eloquent statement about the responsibility of lawyers: "I resign out of the firmly held belief that a representation should not be abandoned because the client's legal position is extremely unpopular in certain quarters. Defending unpopular clients is what lawyers do." This is civics book stuff, but it's controversial with some gay activists. Evan Wolfson of Freedom to Marry referred to Clement as a "hired gun," an appellation that can describe any lawyer who doesn't work pro bono. (If Clement defended DOMA out of conviction, he would be abused even more.)
The law firm's critics raised a side issue: that the House Republicans' contract with King & Spalding prohibited lawyers at the firm from commenting on DOMA. If that's the case, the firm overreached. But it beggars belief that it dropped this hot potato because of that provision rather than because of the efforts of Human Rights Campaign, the gay-rights organization, to "shame" the firm.
DOMA is a regressive law. But both sides in any case are entitled to "hired guns."
-- Michael McGough
Photo: Paul Clement in a photograph dated August 27, 2007. Credit: U.S. Department of Justice/MCT