Bullies In The Gay Rights Movement

I understand that there’s a noxious clause in the King and Spalding contract that instituted a gag order on everyone else in the firm not even to write about DOMA. I can see why that radical part of the contract, illegal in some states, might have caused the firm to reassess. But I remain deeply troubled by statements like this from my friend Richard Socarides:

“Mr. Clement’s statement misses the point entirely. While it is sometimes appropriate for lawyers to represent unpopular clients when a important principle is at issue, here the only principle he wishes to defend is discrimination and second-class citizenship for gay Americans.”

This is an offensive attack on liberal democracy. There is no “appropriate” or “inappropriate” principle in defending even the most unpopular laws or vile individuals. It is precisely unpopular or despised laws and individuals that deserve legal defense, unfettered by political constraints.

To put pressure on lawyers defending clients or laws because lobby groups don’t like them is deeply illiberal. It remains disgusting, for example, that rightwing groups targeted lawyers defending terror suspects and Gitmo prisoners. When the far right did this, it was despicable. Now that the left is doing it, it remains just as despicable.

Memo to the gay rights leadership: the ends do not justify the means. Let DOMA have the most robust defense it can possibly muster and let us argue just as passionately for its unconstitutionality. When civil rights groups bully, they lose the moral high-ground. When you have men like David Brock leading the charge – and there are no means he has ever eschewed to achieve his ends – the danger is that we prove the far right’s point. We must be better than them.