lgbt law

Big Money in LBGT Law It Seems

There appears to be big money in the new LGBT law.

Last week it was reported that the law firms of high profile lawyers Ted Olson and David Boies took in $6.4 million for the Prop 8 case.

Washington Blade reports that tax filings indicate former U.S. Solicitor General Ted Olson’s law firm – Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP – received $1,691,714 from AFER for “legal and ancillary legal expenses” between April 23, 2009, and March 31, 2010. The organization paid the law firm $958,655 between April 1, 2010, and March 31, 2011, and another $2,758,352 between April 1, 2011, through March 31, 2012.

A spokesman for the Los Angeles-based American Foundation for Equal Rights (AFER) was reported in Huffington Post,included many Hollywood donors (one of the founders of AFER included actor and director Rob Reiner), told the Washington Blade, “Our donors feel very strongly about return on investment.” And other observers said the cost was a bargain compared with the tens of millions of dollars it would have cost to bring Prop 8 back to the ballot in California.
And Dana Nessel, the lawyer who brought the case to have Michigan’s ban on gay marriage struck down, also told HuffPost that she was being told not to bring the case.

“We were told, ‘Oh, you’ll never win,'” Nessel said. There were also strong concerns expressed about the Sixth Circuit, which will now hear the case. Nessel described it as a “little bit more conservative than some of the other circuits,'” with nine Republican-appointed justices at the time, and seven Democratic-appointed judges. But as she also pointed out, it has often been conservative, Republican-appointed judges who’ve ruled in favor of gay marriage — from Judge Vaughn Walker ruling California’s Proposition 8 unconstitutional to, more recently, Judge Robert Shelby striking down Utah’s ban — and Nessel felt it was worth taking the risk.

“Sometimes you just go ahead and try to do what’s right and hope it works out for the best,” she told me. And she predicted at that time, in March 2013, that she would win at the district court level: “I’ve gotten so many signals from this judge. It is clear he wants to strike down the ban.”

Indeed, Judge Bernard Friedman, appointed by President Ronald Reagan, didn’t just strike down the ban; it was in fact his idea to challenge it, which is what gave Nessel those signals, of course. Nessel’s firm, Kessel and Nessel, took a pro-bono case on behalf of April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse, challenging a law that prevented them, as lesbian parents, from co-adopting three children they raised. Judge Friedman said that challenging that law wasn’t the right way to go and said it was Michigan’s marriage ban that they should be challenging. He then gave Nessel 10 days to put a case together.

She was flabbergasted. On the one hand, it was enormously exciting. On the other hand, she had 10 days to mount a marriage case, with few resources. When she appeared in court to make the case, however, Friedman announced that he was putting the case on hold, pending the outcome of the Supreme Court’s decision on Prop 8, which would come a few months later.

Some national gay groups had filed a brief asking Friedman to do that, and, in the end, it was probably prudent. After the high court decided that the Prop 8 proponents didn’t have standing and thus allowed the lower court’s ruling to stand — bringing gay marriage back to California but offering no decision on other bans across the country — Friedman ordered a trial in Michigan, which took place in the past two weeks, followed by his swift decision last week.

See: Huffington Post

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