By Joan Biskupic (Reuters) - As U.S. lawsuits seeking gay-marriage rights move toward a likely showdown at the Supreme Court next year, major law firms are rushing to get involved — but only on the side of the proponents. A Reuters review of more than 100 court filings during the past year shows that at least 30 of the country's largest firms are representing challengers to state laws banning same-sex marriage. Not a single member of the Am Law 200, a commonly used ranking of the largest U.S. firms by revenue, is defending gay marriage prohibitions. These numbers and interviews with lawyers on both sides suggest that the legal industry has reached its Mozilla moment. The software company's CEO, Brendan Eich, resigned in April after being denounced by gay marriage supporters for a donation he had made in support of California's since-overturned gay marriage ban. Now in a similar vein, attorneys at major law firms are getting the message that if they want to litigate against gay marriage they should do so elsewhere. Earlier this year Gene Schaerr, a partner at Winston Strawn in Washington, D.C., quit the 850-lawyer firm so he could represent his home state, Utah, in its defense of a ban on same-sex marriage. Schaerr, a Mormon, told colleagues in an email that became public that he was following his "religious and family duty." Schaerr declined to comment, as did a Winston Strawn spokeswoman. Same-sex marriage is legal in 19 of the 50 U.S. states, and in the District of Columbia. Last June, in the milestone U.S. v. Windsor case, the Supreme Court struck down a federal law defining marriage as between a man and a woman for purposes of federal benefits. Emboldened by that decision, gay and lesbian couples have launched at least 70 lawsuits calling for a broader right, and three cases have been heard by federal appeals courts. PRO BONO PROGRAMS In many of the cases, law firms filed friend-of-the-court briefs on behalf of allies including gay-rights groups, law professors and big companies such as Amazon , Google and Starbucks . In some cases, big law firms have made a larger commitment and are representing parties to the litigation. Virtually all are working for free or at cut rates as part of their "pro bono" programs to provide legal services they deem to be in the public interest. The 850-lawyer firm Akin Gump, for example, sued the state of Texas last year on behalf of two same-sex couples and has filed friend-of-the-court briefs in the appeals cases testing Utah, Oklahoma and Virginia bans. The firm said it has donated at least 1,100 hours so far in the litigation. States defending gay marriage bans are represented by state government lawyers, but some have also turned to outside counsel. According to the Reuters review, the private attorneys who have signed up to represent states or are backing allied groups with friend-of-the-court briefs are predominantly from religious and conservative organizations, such as the Alliance Defending Freedom and the Beckett Fund, or are from small law firms. Several lawyers opposed to same-sex marriage rights said they believed big firms would not litigate for that side even if attorneys asked to do so. They pointed to the example of Mozilla's Eich as an example of the pressures being faced. Andrew Pugno, a lawyer for the group that defended California's ban when it was challenged by same-sex couples, said he considered big firms when searching for someone to argue the case. In at least one situation, Pugno said, a lawyer at a big firm was interested but partners refused to let him take on the work. He declined to identify the person or firm. “I personally know many good lawyers in large firms who ... are terrified of speaking out even within their own firms,” said Pugno, who has a small firm near Sacramento, Calif. He declined to name any. THE CLEMENT EPISODE Opponents of gay marriage also referred to Paul Clement, the prominent Washington, D.C., litigator who quit his law firm, King & Spalding, in 2011 after it withdrew as counsel for a congressional group defending the federal law that defined marriage as between a man and woman. In his resignation letter, which was made public, Clement said he acted "out of the firmly-held belief that representation should not be abandoned because the client's legal position is extremely unpopular in certain quarters. Defending unpopular positions is what lawyers do." Clement now works at a small firm. Law firms are also sensitive to an annual "corporate equality" index published by the Human Rights Campaign, a gay rights advocacy group. It awards points for such factors as benefits to same-sex partners and support for gay-marriage litigation, and docks those who oppose it. Most law firms get "100%" ratings, but in its 2011 index Human Rights Campaign rated the 900-lawyer firm Foley & Lardner "85%" and dropped it to “60%” the following year. Explaining its ratings in accompanying literature, the group said Foley & Lardner had chosen to represent “clearly discriminatory clients.” During that period, the firm represented a group, National Organization for Marriage, that challenged the District of Columbia’s law allowing gay unions. The case failed, and the representation ended. In its next report, for 2013, the Human Rights Campaign raised the firm's rating to "100%." A Foley & Lardner spokeswoman declined to comment on the episode. "Fear is a healthy motivator to do the right thing,” said Fred Sainz, a spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign. “I’m not suggesting that the other side shouldn’t have attorneys. I’m saying we’re going to judge those attorneys." Lawyers at major firms working for gay marriage say they feel a societal obligation. There is a "desire to advance an extremely important equality issue," said Kimberly Parker, chair of the pro bono committee at WilmerHale, a 1000-lawyer firm that filed a friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of a gay-rights advocacy group in the Utah, Oklahoma and Virginia cases. At WilmerHale, as at many firms, pro bono projects are typically proposed by individual lawyers and then screened primarily for possible conflicts of interest with existing clients. Some law firms also say their efforts can be good for business, particularly when it comes to relations with corporate clients that have internal policies supporting gay rights, and in efforts to recruit young lawyers. Theodore Olson, a partner at Gibson Dunn, argued against Virginia's marriage ban in May and has advocated for gay marriage since he and another top litigator, David Boies, challenged California's Proposition 8 in 2009. Before that, Olson was best known for arguing on behalf of conservatives in major Supreme Court cases such as the one in 2000 that allowed George W. Bush to take the White House and the 2010 decision striking down major campaign-finance regulations in the Citizens United case. Now, he says, potential recruits see him differently. “I had no idea how popular I would be on law school campuses,” he said, adding jokingly: “All of sudden, the monster I was from Bush v. Gore and Citizens United is gone.” (Reporting By Joan Biskupic; Editing by Amy Stevens and Martin Howell)
Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting
- The Daily Beast
Photo Illustration by Thomas Levinson/The Daily Beast/GettyFormer President Donald Trump and his family company have a long history of stiffing contractors, but there’s one bill they almost certainly wish they had paid.Ahead of the 2017 presidential inauguration, the Trump Organization reserved a block of rooms at the Loews Madison Hotel. When at least 13 people didn’t show up, the Trump Organization refused to pay the bill, something it has done many times in the past. The company then dodged a
- Yahoo Life
The supermodel, who turns 68 on Feb. 2, appears to be vacationing in the Caribbean.
- Yahoo Sports
Cowboys fans were seething on Sunday. Apparently, so was Dak.
Jordan Cashmyer, a woman who was featured on MTV’s “16 and Pregnant” in 2014, died in Maryland on Sunday. She was 26 years old. News of Cashmyer’s death was shared by her stepmother, Jessica Cashmyer, through a post written on the Facebook account of the Dennis M. Cashmyer Jr., her husband and Jordan’s father. A […]
- The Daily Beast
ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty ImagesThere was a time when Donald Trump made news with his rallies—when he said things that utterly shocked us. Who could forget the firestorm he started, for example, when he went after Colin Kaepernick and other NFL players who knelt during the national anthem in 2017, or earlier that year when he called Barack Obama “the founder of ISIS”?Trump’s performance in Arizona on Saturday night—his first rally in months and his much-hyped chance to respond to the one-year ann
- NBC Sports BayArea
Not many people are happier than Stephen A. Smith to see the Cowboys lose Sunday.
- NBC Sports BayArea
After the game, PFWA pool reporter Todd Archer spoke with referee Alex Kemp about the controversial finish. Here is the entire back-and-forth.
Trump claims he couldn't have lost the 2020 presidential election because his Arizona rally boasted thousands of attendees and 'had cars that stretch out for 25 miles'
"There's nobody that can see the end of this crowd," Trump told his supporters at a Saturday rally. "That's not somebody that lost an election."
- Fox News
The FBI is being slammed for saying the Congregation Beth Israel hostage taker’s demands were “not specifically related to the Jewish community.”
MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell says he's 'disgusted' with 2 banks he claims are cutting ties with him over 'cancel culture' after his phone records were subpoenaed by the January 6 committee
Lindell told Insider he wonders why they kept him after he was at the White House "running around with papers from a lawyer that said martial law."
- NBC Sports BayArea
Kyle Shanahan explains the fourth-down gaffe that could have cost the 49ers the game.
Steve Bannon claims Trump rally will prompt Arizona to decertify Biden's 2020 election victory. The vote cannot be decertified in any way.
"We're going to decertify Biden electors in Arizona, in Wisconsin, in the commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and in the great state of Georgia," Bannon said.
A Florida Republican who was defeated by 59 percentage points in a congressional special election won't concede
With all precincts reporting, Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick defeated Jason Mariner by a 78.7% to 19.6% margin — a massive 59.1 percentage-point victory.
Katy Perry is back and sexier than ever. On Jan 14, Perry posted a series of sultry photos with the caption, “let it burn baby #WIG.” Now, while all the photos are gorgeous, fans are really feeling the heat with the first photo. View this post on Instagram A post shared by KATY PERRY (@katyperry) […]
Investors looking for a brief respite from two weeks of volatile trading on Wall Street may get one on Monday, when Martin Luther King Jr. Day is observed this year.
- Fox News
Virginia’s newly sworn-in AG Jason Miyares announced investigations into the Virginia Parole Board and Loudoun County Public Schools within hours of being sworn in while also reportedly gutting the Civil Rights division in his office.
- KABC – Los Angeles
A nurse who was left in critical condition after being assaulted at a bus stop in downtown Los Angeles has died, officials announced Sunday.
The former president is angry that one possible candidate hasn't deferred to him.
- Kansas City Star
Mission accomplished. Donna Kelce’s goal was to see son Travis Kelce and the Kansas City Chiefs play in Sunday evening’s postseason game after watching other son Jason play for the Eagles on Sunday afternoon in Tampa.
- Patriots Wire
Darius Slay posted a tweet that's drawing attention from current and former Patriots.