ATL firm’s Paul Clement to defend marriage ban

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imageThis might ding the gay-friendly score of Atlanta-based law firm King & Spalding: A partner in the firm, Paul Clement, is the new champion of the federal ban on same-sex marriage. Clement, a partner in the firm’s Washington, D.C. office, has been hired by Republicans in the U.S. House as their heavy hitter to defend the Defense of Marriage Act since President Obama decided his administration would no longer defend the 1996 measure. Clement (photo) served as a U.S. Solicitor General under President George W. Bush and is a $1,000-an-hour attorney who reportedly received a $5 million signing bonus from the firm. House Speaker John Boehner has spearheaded the Republican takeover of defending DOMA and now wants to pull money from the Justice Department’s budget to fund the work of Clement and King & Spalding. Besides Boehner and the Republican leadership, Clement’s nee backers also include Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage. Brown led a busload of same-sex marriage bigots on a U.S. tour last summer, including a stop in Atlanta where he was outnumbered by hundreds of LGBT activists and gay marriage advocates. "At last we have a legal eagle on this case who actually wants to win in court. Paul Clement is a genuinely distinguished lawyer, a former Solicitor General of the United States, who we are confident will win this case,” Brown said Monday in a statement. “Thanks to Speaker Boehner's actions, President Obama's attempt to sabotage the legal defense of DOMA is not going to work. Speaker Boehner is also quite right that the money to defend DOMA should be deducted from the Justice Department's budget, since they will be doing the job DOJ should have done, but refused to do,” Brown added. Clement’s firm, King & Spalding, has been touted by LGBT employees and activists for its progressive stands and treatment of employees. The company received a 95 out of a possible 100 in the four most recent Corporate Equality Index rankings from the Human Rights Campaign – one of the highest scores among Atlanta-based companies. But HRC has condemned Clement’s hiring and the role of King & Spalding in defending the gay marriage ban. “The firm of King & Spalding has brought a shameful stain on its reputation in arguing for discrimination against loving, married couples,” HRC President Joe Solmonese said in a statement on Monday. “No amount of taxpayer money they rake in will mitigate this blemish on the King & Spalding name.” The firm touts its LGBT inclusion on its own website, cites the HRC rankings and discusses how it recruits gay law students. But Solmonese said the role of Clement in the national debate over gay marriage could undermine the firm’s record on LGBT issues. “In taking up DOMA’s defense, the firm is aiding and abetting an effort to score cheap political points on the backs of same-sex couples,” Solmonese said. “King & Spalding was not required to take up this defense and should be ashamed of associating themselves with an effort to deny rights to their fellow citizens.” And clicktivists take note. Change.org has launched a petition to tell King & Spalding “Don’t defend bigotry against LGBT people.” On Tuesday morning, the petition had 286 signatures. A King & Spalding spokesperson confirmed Clement’s hiring to Reuters, but declined further comment.

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