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April 26, 2011

Quote of the day - Richard Socarides

Greg Sargent quotes Richard Socarides of Equality Matters in response to attorney Paul Clement's claim that he is defending DOMA as part of a lawyer's duty to defend "unpopular causes":

“He tries to make the case that lawyers should represent unpopular causes — but this is not merely an unpopular cause, this is an un-American cause,” Socarides said. “If a lawyer represents an unpopular client who’s defending an important principle, that is what the legal system is about. If the client is unpopular but the principle is important, then it’s important to do.”

“But this is not an important principle,” Socarides continued. “The only principle he wishes to defend is discrimination and second class citizenship for gay Americans. It’s very wrong.”

Update: Andrew Sullivan takes strong issue with Socarides:

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.

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