Top-flight firm King & Spalding pulls out of deal with GOP House to defend DOMA

Under pressure from gay rights groups, Atlanta-based international law firm King & Spalding announced it was pulling out of a deal struck with Republican leaders to defend the Defense of Marriage Act on behalf of the House of Representatives. Paul Clement, the high-powered attorney who spearheaded the arrangement for the firm, has resigned and announced he will now take up the case as a member of conservative-politics-associated firm Bancroft PLLC.

“In reviewing this assignment…, I determined that the process used for vetting this engagement was inadequate,” said King & Spalding chairman Robert Hays in a statement. “Ultimately I am responsible for any mistakes that occurred and apologize for the challenges this may have created.”

GOP House Speaker John Boehner announced in February that Congress would defend DOMA after the Obama administration announced it would no longer defend the law in court. In a letter to congressional leaders explaining the move, Attorney General Eric Holder said he thought DOMA unconstitutionally discriminated against gay people.

Christian-right groups like Colorado Springs-based Focus on the Family celebrated the arrangement House leaders made with King & Spalding a week ago, pointing to Clement’s stellar resume and the firm’s global reputation and vast resources.

Gay-rights advocates like the Human Rights Campaign, however, underlined King & Spalding’s reputation heretofore as an equal-opportunity employer. HRC announced it would launch a campaign against the firm’s decision to defend DOMA that would include ads in mainstream and legal publications and outreach to the firm’s clients.

As Amanda Terkel at the Hufffington Post reports, pro-gay law groups were especially concerned with a clause in the contract King & Spalding signed with the House that barred any of the firm’s attorneys from working to “alter or amend” DOMA, even on a pro-bono basis.

Read more on the story at the Huffington Post, which has also posted Clement’s resignation letter.

“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,” he wrote.

Clement, a former U.S. solicitor general and acting U.S. attorney general, attended Georgetown, Cambridge and Harvard universities. He was a law clerk for conservative Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia.

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