The big gay rights news today is that the law firm King & Spaulding, which had previously signed on to defend the Defense of Marriage Act at the behest of House Republicans, has withdrawn its representation in the face of outrage by liberal and LGBT groups. A lot of folks had wondered whether K&S would face a backlash in its efforts to recruit new attorneys, as the current generation is quite hostile to homophobia and legally-sanctioned anti-gay discrimination. Former Solicitor General Paul Clement, who was to lead the DOMA defense, has resigned from K&S effective immediately, and will continue to defend DOMA at another firm (Bancroft PLLC).
While I was heartened to see that the political muscle of the pro-equality community has grown strong enough that it could provoke such a reaction, I admit some unease for K&S' decision and some sympathy for Clement's resignation. Regardless of whether K&S was correct to take this case in the first place -- and I too find it mystifying that K&S didn't see these problems a mile off -- once they agreed to do it, it's disconcerting to see them then withdraw under fire. As Clement noted in his resignation letter, "Defending unpopular positions is what lawyers do." There are lots of unpopular clients and positions out there, and they deserve representation.
Representing DOMA is kind of like representing a guy who robbed a convenience store. From an outsider's vantage point, you get him an attorney, work on the case diligently, and then hope the due process of the courts sees him convicted. Same with DOMA -- it deserves to have its day in court, and at the end of that day, it deserves to be struck down.
UPDATE: Clement is getting praise from across the legal profession, including from Clinton SG and liberal icon Seth Waxman (currently a partner at WilmerHale).