Gay rights groups target law firm hired to defend DOMA with taxpayer dollars

Sun. April 24, 2011 4:26 PM by News Staff

paul clement will defend doma with taxpayer money

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Pelosi calls GOP’s decision to spend $500,000 defending DOMA “mind blowing”

Washington, DC - House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, members of her camp and gay rights advocates are speaking out against House Speaker John Boehner's decision to hire a law firm for up to 500,000 in taxpayer dollars to defend the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the federal law banning gay marriage.

"The hypocrisy of this legal boondoggle is mind-blowing," Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill said in a statement to the Washington Post this week. "Speaker Boehner is spending half a million dollars of taxpayer money to defend discrimination. If Republicans were really interested in cutting spending, this should be at the top of the list."

The contract with Paul Clement, the former solicitor general during George W. Bush's presidency, was made by House Republicans after President Obama instructed the Justice Department in February not to defend the law he called unconstitutional.

Clement, who is now a private practicing attorney at the firm King & Spalding in Washington after working as the solicitor general from June 2005 to June 2008, will be paid $520 an hour for his representation with a cap of $500,000.

The Human Rights Campaign, which gave King & Spalding a 95 out of a 100 corporate equality index rating the past four years, has announced a Tuesday news conference one block from the firm's Atlanta offices.

"Firms are rightly judged on the cases they voluntarily take on, and history will not be kind to [King & Spalding's] decision to defend institutionalized discrimination," the Human Rights Campaign said in a released statement. "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."

A petition started by the grassroots organizing group CREDO Action objecting to House Republicans hiring Clement has received more than 37,000 signatures.

"Speaker Boehner, stop using taxpayer money to defend the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act," reads the petition. "If you want to spend $500,000 to hire high-priced lawyers to stand on the wrong side of history, you should do so on your own dime."

The Los Angeles Times has called DOMA "wrongheaded," but encouraged gay rights groups to refrain from attacking lawyers hired to defend it.

"The tradition of lawyers defending unpopular or controversial clients is an honorable one," the newspaper said.