WASHINGTON -- A progressive organization is targeting employees at the law firm King & Spalding with an online campaign aimed at preventing House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) from using taxpayer money to defend the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), a case that one of King & Spalding's partners has agreed to lead.
More than 31,000 individuals have signed a petition started by the grassroots organizing group CREDO Action objecting to House Republicans hiring King & Spalding partner Paul Clement, who previously served as President Bush's solicitor general, to defend DOMA using public funds. The firm is poised to rake in up to $500,000 in taxpayer dollars to represent the House GOP, who would like the judiciary to uphold the law that defines federal marriage as being between one man and one woman.
"Speaker Boehner, stop using taxpayer money to defend the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act," reads the petition. "If you want to spend $500,000 to hire high-priced lawyers to stand on the wrong side of history, you should do so on your own dime."
Because CREDO wants employees of King & Spalding to know about the petition, the group has targeted them with Facebook ads that direct them to it. On Facebook, it's possible to target ads toward people who list specific employers. There are approximately 450 people on the social networking site who are associated with King & Spalding. Some of them may be former employees, and there are likely a large number of individuals who don't list their place of work on their profiles. But that group, at the very least, represents a network of people affiliated with the firm.
"The ad is definitely getting noticed," said CREDO Action Campaign Manager Matt Lockshin. "It has been shown 6,673 times to the 440 people we're targeting. And it's been clicked on 41 times, which means as many as 10 percent of the people who have identified themselves as employees of King and Spalding on Facebook have clicked on it."
An image of the ad:
King & Spalding employees may be clicking, but publicly, they're staying mum. The Huffington Post put out more than a dozen calls or emails to attorneys at the firm -- some of whom are openly gay, some of whom sit on the firm's Diversity Committee -- and none were returned, save one, which ended abruptly when the lawyer learned whose call she was returning.
"It's appalling that a company like King and Spalding that actively touts diversity as a core value would turn around and defend a discriminatory law that treats its own employees like second class citizens," said Lockshin. "As a company that works for social change, we know that corporations have a choice. CREDO has chosen to stand up for marriage equality. And we thought it was important that the lawyers and staff at King and Spalding face the choice their company has made to stand on the wrong side of history."
For some gay rights advocates, the most troubling part of this situation is a clause in the contract signed between King & Spalding and the House of Representatives that bars the firm's employees from engaging in any advocacy to "alter or amend" DOMA.
The provision states that "partners and employees who do not perform services pursuant to this Agreement will not engage in lobbying or advocacy for or against any legislation...that would alter or amend in any way the Defense of Marriage Act and is pending before either the U.S. House of Representatives or the U.S. Senate or any committee of either body during the term of the Agreement."
"This particular provision adds insult to injury," said the Human Rights Campaign's Fred Sainz in an interview with Metro Weekly. "Not only is K&S promoting discrimination, they also are muzzling their own employees from opposing discrimination and doing what's right."
Jon Davidson, legal director at Lambda Legal, told The Huffington Post that this sort of clause is far from standard in contracts.
"It's basically a gag rule on all employees," he said. "I've never really seen that sort of provision before, and I believe it violates some provisions of state employment law."
Les Zuke, King & Spalding's director of communications, refused to comment specifically on the advocacy clause.
"As a matter of policy, we do not discuss our client representations," he said. "Therefore, the question you're asking me and the direction you're going in lead to questions I cannot answer."