Dear Marriage Supporter,
Breaking news! Thanks to you, marriage has won another tremendous victory in yet another deep blue state: Rhode Island.
Speaker Gordon Fox, after claiming for weeks that he had the votes to pass gay marriage, has just thrown in the towel.
"Based on individual discussions with many of you, I understand how difficult the marriage equality issue has been. Based on your input, along with the fact that it is now clear to me that there is no realistic chance for passage of the bill in the Senate, I will recommend that the House not move forward with a vote on the marriage equality bill during this legislative session," Speaker Fox wrote to his colleagues.
Just a few short months ago, this same Speaker Fox was pledging to push a gay marriage bill quickly through the House.
As late as April 13, Marriage Equality Rhode Island was telling its supporters to "prove NOM wrong," accusing us of "unfounded claims about the state of marriage equality" when I told you that the allegedly inevitable drive for gay marriage was faltering and "another tremendous victory was within our grasp."
Now, thanks to you, that victory is here! Together, by the grace of God, we've proved the pundits' relentless message of despair wrong once again!
Thanks to Bishop Tobin's tremendous leadership in Rhode Island, thanks to the Hispanic Pastoral Association which delivered thousands of petitions from Hispanic Christians in deeply Democratic districts, and thanks to thousands of ordinary Rhode Islanders who rose up to tell their political reps: Don't mess with marriage.
We knew something big was breaking when Kathy Kushnir, the Executive Director of MERI—the leading group advocating for gay marriage in that state—abruptly resigned after failing even to get the gay marriage bill out of committee in another state that was supposed to be a slam dunk for gay marriage this year. (We knew that because the heads of Equality Maryland and Equality California faced similar fates when gay marriage lost in both states.)
My hope is that Speaker Fox will pursue a "reciprocal beneficiaries" bill which respects religious liberty and will not invite Rhode Island courts to strike down marriage, providing some practical benefits to same-sex couples—such as hospital visitation rights—without endangering the state's marriage laws. This is manifestly the will of the people in Rhode Island and the only way to bring people together rather than to continue to divide the state in the middle of a difficult budget battle.
In a rather belligerent statement, MERI spokesman Bill Fischer said his group will oppose any partnership-benefit bill except marriage: "Leadership in both in the House and Senate need to understand we have no intention of compromising on civil unions. By voting for legislation to establish civil unions, members of the General Assembly will essentially be legalizing a two-class system that subjects thousands of Rhode Island same-sex couples to discrimination."
Take a deep breath, and celebrate this victory—and meanwhile, stay tuned for the next fight!
More good news, in Minnesota: State senators Warren Limmer and Paul Gazelka introduced a marriage amendment defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman.
If the Minnesota Marriage Amendment passes both the House and the Senate, it will go to the people of Minnesota in November 2012, where it must gain a majority of all votes cast in the election in order to become part of Minnesota's constitution
"This issue constantly comes up during legislative sessions and it's time for the people to decide," said Sen. Limmer. "Allowing a small number of politicians or activist judges in St. Paul to decide the definition of marriage would not be acceptable."
Amen to that!
Finally, I can't neglect to share with you the amazing drama unfolding under our eyes these last few days with regard to the defense of DOMA, and the growing backlash against a campaign of intimidation by the Human Rights Campaign carried out in full public view.
It started a few weeks ago when HRC sent a letter to every major law firm, warning them not to let any lawyer in their firm take on the House's defense of DOMA.
When Paul Clement agreed to take on DOMA's defense we thought that threat was moot.
I already knew Paul Clement was an extraordinary lawyer. We all owe Speaker Boehner a debt of gratitude for recruiting a legal mind of his caliber to defend DOMA on behalf of the House before the Supreme Court. As Solicitor General, that was Paul Clement's full-time job: winning cases for the government before the Supreme Court.
Every single expert I spoke to about Paul Clement's selection as the lawyer to defend DOMA told me the same thing: He's the best there is. Speaker Boehner could not have made a better choice.
Then on Monday the unthinkable happened: The gay press was claiming that Paul Clement had dumped DOMA! Clement was backing out!
I heard the news with a sinking feeling; if true, this would be a huge blow.
But then a quick phone call from Speaker Boehner's office delivered the incredible news: It was not true. It was not bad news. It was instead an incredible, inspiring story of courage, of standing up to intimidation and doing the right thing. Paul Clement was not going to back out. He was going to lose his job, if that was what it took to keep faith with his client.
Now I know—now we all know—not only what an extraordinary lawyer, but what an extraordinary man Paul Clement is!
True, the law firm, King and Spalding, folded like a broken chair within hours of HRC's announcement that it would be "educating" their clients and potential recruits in an effort to hurt the firm economically.
But Paul Clement refused bow to pressure, or admit defeat.
His resignation letter is a beautiful thing to read:
"Efforts to delegitimize any representation for one side of a legal controversy are a profound threat to the rule of law. ...When it comes to the lawyers, the surest way to be on the wrong side of history is to abandon a client in the face of hostile criticism," he wrote (pdf) in resigning from his law firm, Kirk & Spalding, which tried to force him to dump his client.
By responding with courage and grace, Paul Clement has set off a growing backlash against King and Spalding and the HRC campaign—a backlash which goes way beyond the usual party lines.
Usually the gay-marriage advocates who threaten people's livelihoods do so behind the scenes. This time they did it in broad undeniable daylight and it looked really ugly.
How big is this backlash? Well, let me tell you, when a major gay-marriage advocate like Andrew Sullivan headlines his criticism, "Bullies in the Gay Rights Movement": Something new is afoot.
Sullivan wrote, "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."
The Wall Street Journal headlined its editorial against the law firm's violation of core ethics "Knave and Spalding," ending its editorial with this thought:
"The Human Rights Campaign has every right to challenge DOMA in court, but it does itself no honor by trying to deny that same right to DOMA's supporters by harassing their legal counsel. As for King and Spalding, better not turn your back on its lawyers in a firefight."
Rep. Dan Lungren (R-CA) said, "King and Spalding's cut and run approach is inexcusable and an insult to the legal profession. Less than one week after the contract was approved engaging the firm, they buckled under political pressure and bailed with little regard for their ethical and legal obligations. Fortunately, Clement does not share the same principles. I'm confident that with him at the helm, we will fight to ensure the courts—not the President—determine DOMA's constitutionality."
Ted Olson, the lawyer trying to strike down Prop 8, was shocked. "I don't know of anything comparable to this. You have to be willing to stand your ground," he told reporters.
Pres. Clinton's Solicitor General Seth Waxman agreed, telling the Washingtonian, "I think it's important for lawyers on the other side of the political divide from Paul ... to reaffirm what Paul wrote ... having undertaken to defend DOMA, he's acting in the highest professional and ethical traditions in continuing to represent a client."
One of the New York Times' and NPR's favorite legal ethicists, Prof. Steve Gillers of NYU Law School, said flatly that Clement was "entirely right," and that "King & Spalding was scared off by the prospect of becoming a pariah," adding that the "firm's timidity here will hurt weak clients, poor clients and despised clients."
By the end of yesterday even Pres. Obama's own Attorney General Eric Holder was siding with Paul Clement, telling reporters that Clement is "doing that which lawyers do." "Paul Clement's a great lawyer," Holder said. "He has done a lot of really great things for this nation."
Some things we still do not yet know about DOMAgate: Did a Coca-Cola executive actually try to take away lawyers from marriage? Talking Points Memo, a hard left blog, is claiming so. Over at the legal-eagle website Volokh.com, legal experts are saying that Congress may have a right to know:
According to some accounts, King & Spalding was persuaded to drop its representation of the House of Representatives in litigation over the Defense of Marriage Act due to pressure from one of the Atlanta-based firm's largest clients: Coca-Cola. If this is true, it raises some interesting legal ethics questions that the good folks at the Legal Ethics Forum have been exploring, including Brad Wendel, Rob Vischer, and Richard Painter. One interesting point raised by Prof. Painter here is that any communications from Coca-Cola pressuring King & Spalding to drop the DOMA defense are unlikely to be privileged. Indeed, under ABA Model Rule 1.4, King & Spalding could have to disclose such information to Congress.
I promise you, we will stay on top of this unfolding story.
And thanks to the thousands of you—especially you new folk, joining NOM this week!—who have responded to our call to let King and Spalding know what you think of their behavior. We are not going to back down from this fight or any fight to protect marriage.
With your help we will keep the so-called impossible victories coming!
Next week the New York legislature comes back into session.
Rev. Rubén Díaz is issuing a call to fight for marriage, and he is reaping the whirlwind of hatred and abuse which is now directed against anyone who stands for God's truth about marriage.
He wrote an amazing letter to the Village Voice this week about the raw hatred and threats directed against him and, by extension, against millions of others of good New Yorkers who do not believe that same-sex couples are marriages:
When I read Steven Thrasher's column, "Ruben Diaz Sr.: Gay Marriage Over My Dead Body," I realized that your point was not to explore the beliefs of people opposed to homosexual marriage, but to vilify my principled and vocal defense against attacks on marriage as we know it.
When I read the comments posted online that followed your article, I considered that you or your editors have espoused an "at all costs" approach to achieving your goal of passing a gay marriage bill. One reader, Wayne writes: "....as you wish, Mr Diaz.....I can arrange your final resting place in a local dump."
Would the authors and editors at the Village Voice have been so quick to tolerate any comments hoping for the demise or imminent death of one of their favorite political leaders? ... It's so sad to see people in journalism abuse their positions, but it's outrageous to see how the editors of the Village Voice use their editorial discretion to facilitate and encourage homicide.
On May 15, Rev Díaz called for a rally in the Bronx and I will be there!
Talk about fighting for marriage in the deep blue country! But marriage is an extraordinary issue which gathers together people of all races, creeds and colors in defense of an idea: Marriage is the way we bring together the two great halves of humanity, male and female, in part so that children can know the love of their mom and dad.
We're gearing up with Rev. Díaz and thousands of New Yorkers to fight for marriage.
Pray for Rev. Díaz and for all on the front lines of this fight, will you? And following Rev. Díaz's lead, pray for those who wish to redefine marriage—for their safety, for a new spirit of civility and decency—and for the conversion of their hearts to support for marriage.
God bless you and keep you safe and in good spirits!
And may He bless our country.
Brian S. Brown
National Organization for Marriage
P.S. NOM has spent close to $400,000 in Rhode Island alone in the last few weeks for ads, mailing and calls to reach out and activate ordinary citizens to achieve this great victory. This expense came right on top of our great victory in Maryland in which we once again threw all the resources we have—time, money and prayer—into the fight for marriage. Looking ahead, the fight for New York is next, along with Minnesota (another bluish state!) and the fight for DOMA, and battles in other states—with no time to stop, rest and rebuild our finances in between. Will you celebrate our extraordinary victories by stepping forward today to help us win more victories across America for marriage? If you can afford it (and we know in this economy not everybody can, so thank you for everything you do, too!) can you pledge $100 or $500 today to fight for marriage? Your gift of even $5, or $8, or $19, especially pledged monthly, gives us the resources we need to get your message out to other Americans who believe, as you do, that marriage is worth fighting for—God grant us more victories in His name!