Critics Vilify HRC As ‘Bullies’ For Pressuring Law Firm To Honor Its Own Nondiscrimination Policy

Perhaps having bored of directly attacking law firm King & Spalding for backing out of its defense of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), critics are now attacking the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) for having pressured K&S to make that decision.

A surprising number of newspapers who oppose DOMA have been among the chorus of critics. A Washington Post editorial asserted that HRC “sullies itself and its cause by resorting to bullying tactics.” The Los Angeles Times said HRC had “stumbled,” intentionally downplaying K&S’s commitment to being an inclusive firm as “no contradiction.” Margaret Talbot echoed this sentiment in The New Yorker, suggesting the tactic carried “an unfortunate whiff of McCarthyite groupthink.” Even Attorney General Eric Holder, in addition to defending Clement, compared HRC to those who criticized the lawyers who defended Guantanamo detainees, implying that a law like DOMA and a person like a detainee have the same “right” to a defense.

Ever eager to self-victimize, marriage equality opponents like the National Organization for Marriage have similarly embraced the opportunity to paint LGBT activists as “bullies.” Glenn Beck took time to reinforce this meme on his show Wednesday:

BECK: So a private firm picked the case up. Well, here’s where the bullies come in. They start getting hammered with phone calls. This law firm gets hammered with phone calls and pressured. And so all these activists force the law firm to reconsider and they dropped the case. We’re trying to teach our kids about bullies in school, and boy do we teach them every day because we let the bullies win every day.

What all of these critics ignore is K&S’s own integrity as a law firm. If it stakes its reputation partly on its commitment to not discriminating, its clients (like Coca-Cola) should be concerned that it has accepted a contract that allows for such discrimination, particularly if the firm’s Diversity Committee was not consulted. If it’s defending a statute that harms many of its employees and even limits their right to speak out against it, there should be nothing wrong with encouraging those employees to voice their concerns. HRC’s campaign to hold K&S accountable to their own commitment to equality is anything but “bullying.”

Throwing around the term “bullying” like that is not only an inaccurate depiction of HRC, it ignores the severity of true bullying that LGBT youth experience every day. While someone will eventually have to defend DOMA so the cases can proceed, K&S is under no obligation to be that someone.  Talking a friend down from the edge of a cliff is not “bullying.” Perhaps critics of HRC should evaluate the difference between positive and negative peer pressure when determining who the real bullies are.


Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council took the rhetoric a step further, referring to LGBT activists’ tactics as “corporate terrorism.”

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