King & Spalding, the law firm House Republicans hired to defend the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), backed out of the case on Monday, after facing intense criticism from gay rights advocates. The law, which defines marriage as the union of a man and a woman, had been derided by some as "homophobic." After King & Spalding dropped out, former U.S. Solicitor General Paul Clement, the lawyer who had agreed to represent GOP leaders, promptly resigned from the firm, and promised to stick with the case on his own, saying lawyers shouldn't ditch clients just because their "legal position is extremely unpopular in certain quarters." House Speaker John Boehner had hired the private attorneys when the Obama administration announced in February that it would no longer defend DOMA in court. Will this make it harder for the GOP to keep the law alive?
Yes, this will hurt opponents of gay marriage: No doubt about it — this is a huge setback for House Republicans, says Alana Goodman at Commentary. "It will be tough for them to convince a major, credible law firm to sign on to the case after this," and they'll need big guns to win. The Right sees the intimidation of King & Spalding as "an unfortunate blow to civil liberties," but to the Left this has the feel of a significant victory.
"Law firm drops DOMA case after attacks from gay rights groups"
Actually, the legal fight remains unchanged: "As a matter of law, nothing, absolutely nothing, changes on account of Monday's made-for-cable whipsaw," says Andrew Cohen at The Atlantic. Clement merely jumped to another white-shoe firm, so the GOP leadership will still have an army of lawyers and paralegals in its camp. "As a matter of politics and protocol, however, boy oh boy is this an uncomfortable way to start the first days of the rest of DOMA's life."
"In DOMA dispute, Paul Clement leaves with a bang"
The legal system is the real victim: "The Defense of Marriage is rotten legislation," says Jennifer Rubin at The Washington Post, and the Supreme Court may well decide it's unconstitutional, no matter how strong a fight the GOP House leadership puts up in court. The real tragedy here is that the Left's political bullying is determining who deserves representation and who doesn't, and that weakens the legal system for everyone.
"The left decides who gets lawyers"