For the Human Rights Campaign, Diversity Is Not Enough
Foley & Lardner, LLP is a large and successful law firm. Focused on serving business clients, it has more than 1,000 attorneys in over 60 offices throughout the United States and across the globe. And although a firm that large is necessarily diverse, we recently found that diversity is not enough when the Human Rights Campaign is looking over your shoulder.
Specifically, on Nov. 8, HRC President Joe Solmonese sent a letter to Foley & Lardner Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Jay O. Rothman. The letter took the firm to task over the fact that Cleta Mitchell -- a renowned D.C. lawyer -- is a partner there.
In 2009, our lawyers witnessed Ms. Mitchell leading and counseling anti-LGBT community members at a public D.C. hearing on testimony that was deeply hurtful towards our community. Now, Ms. Mitchell is a registered lobbyist on behalf of National Organization for Marriage in Minnesota, which goes well beyond any professional or ethical obligations of legal representation.
But just what was so "hurtful"? It was the message of Mitchell's client, Stand4Marriage DC, a citizens' group formed to protect marriage as the union of one man and one woman, a principle that all history shows to be the ideal way to create and nurture the next generation. But Solmonese casts this noble proposition as a slur, claiming that Mitchell was really "discriminating against gays and lesbians wishing to marry."
Ironically, it was just two years ago that HRC praised Foley & Lardner for its diversity and "support of LGBT equality ... within its own workforce." Now, just because one attorney within this huge firm defends marriage, HRC is dropping the hammer?
Can we get a little tolerance and understanding here?
Demonstrating the duplicitous nature of the HRC's tactics even more clearly, Solmonese's letter also admitted that he and others "fully recognize that the legal profession has the duty to represent unpopular clients and take on controversial cases." Yet he appears to be waging a public relations war against Foley & Lardner for doing just that.
If Solmonese were to look at this more objectively, maybe it would dawn on him that since those practicing homosexual behavior in America represent perhaps 1.4 percent of our population, his characterization of those who support marriage as the union of a man and a woman as "unpopular clients" will strike most folks as silly. And his take will readily be seen for what it is: pure propaganda.
In a fight like this, you don't win over hearts and minds using intimidation and mischaracterization as the central weapons. Nor will praise for diversity, followed by a demand that your opponents lie down and surrender their defenses, be something the American people are likely to respect. Indeed, Mr. Solmonese seems to claim some "right" to advocate absent any opposition -- which is little more than demanding the power to oppress others with his views.
If HRC really respects diversity, then Mitchell's presence at Foley & Lardner guarantees it. And if that's the wrong kind of diversity for Mr. Solmonese and the HRC, it is the right kind of diversity for Americans who care about strong families, grounded in the durable relationship of one man and one woman, in that wonderful and unique union called "marriage."
Gary McCaleb serves as senior counsel and senior vice president of Direct Litigation with the Alliance Defense Fund at its headquarters in Scottsdale, Arizona. He leads a litigation team of about 40 attorneys and legal support staff with offices in the District of Columbia, Arizona, Kansas, California, Georgia, and Tennessee.