Archives – April, 2011
By Adam Bink
With thanks to Sagesse for noting the news, I see the fallout for King & Spaulding continues:
Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R) is terminating his office’s relationship with law firm King & Spalding after the firm decided to drop its defense of the controversial Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) last week.
“King & Spalding’s willingness to drop a client, the U.S. House of Representatives, in connection with the lawsuit challenging the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was such an obsequious act of weakness that I feel compelled to end your legal association with Virginia so that there is no chance that one of my legal clients will be put in the embarrassing and difficult situation like the client you walked away from, the House of Representatives,” Cuccinelli wrote to firm partner Joseph Lynch in a letter obtained by the Washington Examiner.
According to the letter, Cuccinelli said: “Virginia does not shy away from hiring outside counsel because they may have ongoing professional relationships with people or entities, or on behalf of causes that I, or my office, or Virginia as a whole may not support. But it is crucial for us to be able to trust and rely on the fact that our outside counsel will not desert Virginia due to pressure by an outside group or groups.”
“Virginia seeks firms of committment, [sic] courage, strength and toughness, and unfortunately, what the world has learned of King & Spalding, is that your firm utterly lacks such qualities,” he added, according to the Washington Examiner. He also said that the firm would not be able to reapply for special counsel status for the state of Virginia as long as he was attorney general.
Given the reporting about how Coca-Cola and other firms had complained privately to K&S about taking on the case and the pressure they were receiving, I suspect the heat on the other side of the coin would have been worse if K&S kept the case. Bottom line, though, is that they played with fire and got burned. Kerry Eleveld, formerly of The Advocate, writes:
Exactly why the firm dropped the case is still a bit of a mystery, but LGBT advocacy organizations came out of the box swinging just as soon as the contract went public. The president of Equality Matters, Richard Socarides, appeared on MSNBC’s Hardball saying, “[T]his very prominent national law firm has taken on the defense of this horrific law, and we think it’s deplorable.” And the Human Rights Campaign reportedly contacted large clients of King & Spalding as well as LGBT student groups at top law firms to notify them of the firm’s plan to defend the statute.
Call it a gut feeling, but I have a feeling K&S may have had more to lose on the client side staying with the case than it would have gained from hard-right folks like Cuccinelli signing up with the firm.
By Adam Bink
Last week, I wrote about Courage Campaign’s and AllOut’s emergency petition to save Henry Velandia and Josh Vandiver from being torn apart because of DOMA. Sec. Napolitano has the power to put a moratorium on such deportations.
Late this week, they were interviewed by MSNBC’S Thomas Roberts:
Over 20,000 have signed this emergency petition and we are planning some, well, interesting actions to make sure DHS sees them next week. Please sign and on the following page, you’ll see one-click share options so you can ask a few friends to do so too. Stay tuned.
Cross-posted at Good As You
By Jeremy Hooper
With the following three lines, Family Research Council staffers intend to slight the recently-passed bill that will work to enshrine the historical contributions of LGBT Americans in state’s textbooks, as well as drum up fears that link marriage equality to inclusive teaching. But in reality, they discredit the Prop 8 proponents’ primary point:
Interestingly enough, this issue of how children are educated about sexuality is exactly what turned the tide in Proposition 8′s favor. Most parents wouldn’t dream of injecting these conversations into a public school setting. But they can expect more assaults like this one as homosexuals continue to advance their agenda in the military and other strongholds. [FRC]
Why do we say they discredit? Well because think about it: The Prop 8 fear-mongering to which this FRC writer refers revolved entirely around the argument that same-sex marriages would lead impressionable young students to learn about gay people (quelle horreur!). But groups like FRC succeeded (as it were) in stopping marriage equality in California, and yet inclusive school policies still go on. Legislation like Mark Leno’s FAIR Education Act still passes. Public schools still implement measures to encourage open minds and reduce harassment. Because as we always say when the anti-LGBT forces base their marriage campaigns around public school fears: That regardless of where one stands when it comes teaching children to understand and embrace the full spectrum of the world’s normalcy, the scary storm clouds that the “pro-family” forecasters predict are wholly independent of civil marriage recognition itself.
FRC is now all but admitting it: The school-based ads that we see around every marriage referendum are complete and utter hogwash. So next time one of these campaigns rolls around (and it most surely will), the opposition forces owe it to all of us, pro- and anti-equality, to stop with the crap propaganda and actually own the facts of their discrimination. The one and only way to stop inclusive public schooling is to stop LGBT people from existing. If the one and only way the “pro-family” crowd knows to stop gay people’s marriages is to resort to these asides that are so demonstrably disconnected, then that raises several questions about both their merits and their goals.
This post is part of Courage Campaign’s spring fundraising drive, where your dollar will be matched 1-1 by some generous donors, and you have the chance to win some great prizes! Please click here to make a secure — and doubled — contribution today. -Adam
By Rick Jacobs
It’s nearly 1:00AM here in LA on this last Friday of April. I’ve been focused on our first-ever spring fundraising drive. It’s not always fun to raise money, but we need to do just that in order to keep doing just this. But the last 48 hours have filled me with joy.
Yes, I call people to ask for money, but I also get to call and write folks to thank them. I look at every donation that comes in, learning about our members. They fill in“occupation,” and some of those are damned interesting. One thing’s for sure: Courage is about storytelling and our members have inspiring, heartful stories.
Tuesday, I spoke with Dr. B for about thirty minutes. He lives here in the LA area. He’s donated to us a few times, adding up to a pretty nice sum. He’s a medical doctor, married to a woman, nearly blind and suffering from some spinal challenges that make him less mobile than he’d like to be. And he’s a cancer survivor. But what stories!
He cares about equality because he has two gay cousins, one of whom came out in the early 1950s and who, unfortunately, had a rather bad series of experiences which left him less than joyous in his worldview. The other came out much later, after “living a lie” for decades. Dr. B wants this all to end. He wants everyone to live and love as who we are, not to suffer the way his relatives did. And he said he’s up for some treatment that may allow him to go to Europe with his wife for three weeks. I’ll check back in with him and let you know. Oh, he said he’d be happy to record his Testimony for us. We’ll share that as well.
Thursday morning, I got to call Annie B, in Dodge City, Kansas to tell her that she’d won the daily drawing for an iPod Touch. She’s a widow, living “at the end of a country road,” about to move to Seattle if she can arrange it all. Her husband died shortly after they moved to Kansas six years ago to farm and live a quiet life. She’s been there alone ever since.
Why does she care about equality? Her husband had a cousin who, together with that cousin’s partner, took care of the cousin’s father in his waning years. They lived and loved as any couple would, except that they could not marry. She could not understand and does not understand why society prevents that. Her cousin-in-law’s partner has passed away, so part of the reason she wants to move back to Seattle is to be near him.
I asked her to write or record her story, especially after she gets the iPod Touch. She said she would now that I’ve asked, but she had demurred when we asked via email a few months ago. She said, “I started to write my story, but I thought since I was not directly affected, others would have more compelling stories.” Then she thought about that brilliant and sad sermon (by Pastor Martin Niemöller) about Nazi Germany, “Then they came for me and no one was left to speak up.”
So she realized, as we were speaking, that civilization relies on people being civil, which all too often we are not. She understands that telling her story can change minds and is as powerful as any LGBT story, maybe more so because she is not superficially directly affected.
And then tonight, I noticed a modest contribiution from an Edward, whose address is California, but he’d written “I live in Cambodia.” I could not resist writing to him. He lives near Angkor Wat where he has founded and runs a school (http://www.bridgeoflifeschool.org/Bridge_of_Life_School/Welcome.html) that helps local folks to learn basics but also to get jobs. I could not resist giving him a donation, too. He promised that he’d send his story, first in writing and then, when he can get to an Internet café with a good connection, by video. So this gentle man is on the other side of the globe paying attention to Courage Campaign even as he’s paying attention to building lives.
The joy of the Internet is that it provides for lots of connections. The challenge is that they are not easily deepened. This blog that Adam tends so carefully and that you each and all read and build with love and passion is perhaps our most consistent means of expanding those otherwise tenuous online relationships. We’re gong to use our Testimony project to do even more, but know that there are thousands and thousands of us all over the globe who care about each other, who give what they can and who do even more.
Fundraising is not always fun, but it’s sure a great way to get to know the Courageous family. And it’s worth every minute. Thanks for caring. Thanks for being our family. Thanks for your contribution (and chance to win the prizes Adam listed yesterday) and support.
By Adam Bink
Judge Ware set the date for a hearing on the Proponents’ motion to return video recordings for June 13th at 9 AM. This will precede another hearing in front of Judge Ware, which is set for July 11th The hearing set for July 11th, on the topic of vacating the stay, is moved to June 13th. The hearing will also precede another hearing on our side’s motion to unseal the video recordings, which will be set once the Proponents’ motion is ruled upon.
What makes the June 13th hearing so interesting is that Judge Walker is ordered to be present:
All participants in the trial, including the presiding judge (now retired), who are inpossession of a recording of the trial proceedings, are ordered to appear at the hearing on June 13,2011, to show cause as to why the recordings should not be returned to the Court’s possession.
By Adam Bink
Not to beat a dead horse on this issue, but two more points on the DOMA representation issue. The NYTimes gets in the business of opining for a Great Historic Debate as the LATimes did… THIS time lamenting the decision of King & Spaulding to drop the case. Excerpt:
King & Spalding had no ethical or moral obligation to take the case, but in having done so, it was obliged to stay with its clients, to resist political pressure from the left that it feared would hurt its business. Paul Clement, a former solicitor general who quit as partner in King & Spalding over the decision, said, “a representation should not be abandoned because the client’s legal position is extremely unpopular in certain quarters.”
Justice is best served when everyone whose case is being decided by a court is represented by able counsel.
First, lawyers take and drop cases. It’s a fact of life. Second, there is no “everyone” in this case. When lawyers represent unpopular clients because of the merit of the rights being protected — the case at the SCOTUS a few months ago involving Westboro Church and the right to free speech at funerals comes to mind — there is some argument to be made. In this case, DOMA doesn’t protect anyone. It doesn’t ensure fundamental constitutional rights to any particular citizen that would be deplorable if they were taken away. In fact, it only ensures rights are excluded from one group. I can’t say this enough, but there is no “responsibility” as the LATimes put it, to take the case. There is only a choice and a bad one made at that.
NCLR’s Kate Kendell, writing in the Bay Area Reporter, picks up on that point:
Clement and his defenders argue that unpopular causes are entitled to representation. For example, the American Civil Liberties Union represented the Ku Klux Klan in the late 1970s when the KKK was denied a right to march in Skokie, Illinois. But any comparison between that case and Clement’s defense of DOMA unravels immediately. In the Skokie case, the ACLU was defending the First Amendment. They rightly took the position that even a group as repellent as the KKK had a right to free speech. In this situation, there is no similar underlying principle or right at stake. No one would be bothered, for example, if an outdated Jim Crow law that had never been repealed were challenged in court and no lawyer was willing to defend that law. In order to justify the defense of a law, it must be possible to identify some principle that deserves to be vindicated, and here, there simply is none.
DOMA was passed in order to express moral disapproval of LGBT people. It does not embody conflicting principles that need a full-throated defense on both sides to produce a just and fair result. The sole purpose of DOMA is to discriminate against same-sex couples. It perpetuates harm against an underrepresented community and singles out certain families for unequal treatment from their government. No self-respecting lawyer or law firm should be willing to tarnish their reputation by defending such an appalling law. King and Spalding’s decision to withdraw was a turning point in this struggle because it symbolized a shift in power between those who understand that simple truth and those who do not.