WASHINGTON, DC (March 9, 2015) — International law firm McDermott Will & Emery LLP, in its role as pro bono counsel to The Mattachine Society of Washington, DC, has filed an amicus brief to the U.S. Supreme Court in Obergefell v. Hodges and the consolidated same-sex marriage cases.
McDermott’s amicus brief provides an important historical framework for the upcoming Supreme Court arguments, which have been set for April 28, 2015. The brief describes six decades of unconstitutional animus and bigotry at the core of the federal government’s discrimination against LGBT Americans.
For the past three years, McDermott and The Mattachine Society of Washington, DC, have embarked on a mission of “archive activism” to investigate and disclose historical evidence of unconstitutionally impermissible animus and discrimination against LGBT Americans. McDermott’s pro bono team has filed countless Freedom of Information (FOIA) requests to The National Archives, Presidential Libraries and the Department of Justice, as well as conducted research at the Library of Congress and other public and private libraries. These efforts uncovered documentary evidence of a “culture of animus” that led to the investigation, persecution and destruction of gays’ and lesbians' careers and lives, beginning with J. Edgar Hoover’s “Sex Deviate Program” launched by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in 1951.
“With this original archival research, we submit to the Court the evidentiary history of the animus aimed at powerless gay and lesbian Americans throughout over sixty years and seven Presidencies,” said Charles Francis, President of The Mattachine Society of Washington, DC. “Government documents highlighted in this brief are being released for the first time and reveal a toxic combination of disgust and discrimination—disguised as policy—embedded in federal and state government actions that can no longer be dismissed by the Court.”
“It is time to show these documents to the Justices so they can understand the pervasiveness of the discriminatory treatment experienced by LGBT Americans, and how this historical animus set the stage for the marriage bans pending before the Court,” said Paul Thompson, one of the lead McDermott partners on the brief. “The uncovered documents are the foundation of the brief, and are, for the first time, easily accessible for members of the public to view within the framework of this nation’s history.”
“McDermott and The Mattachine Society formed a unique partnership, and together, we have developed a deep commitment to rescuing government documents demonstrating widespread hatred toward LGBT Americans that has long been part of this country’s history,” said Lisa A. Linsky, the other lead partner on the brief and member of the Firm’s Trial Group who created McDermott’s LGBT Diversity and Inclusion Committee in 2006. “We do this work so these stories are not lost, but preserved for the sake of history, education and accountability. Without the work of The Mattachine Society, much of this historic evidence would never be known, and worse, would be destroyed. We cannot let that happen.”
McDermott’s amicus brief contains links to over thirty-five documents consisting of both new and previously declassified material, which together, paint a picture of historical and institutionalized homophobia woven into the operations of our federal government. The full brief can be viewed by clicking here.
The brief was written by a pro bono team of McDermott attorneys led by Paul Thompson of the firm’s Washington, DC office and Lisa A. Linsky of the firm’s New York office. The following attorneys from McDermott’s Boston, New York and Washington, DC offices contributed to the brief: Melissa Nott Davis, Mary Hallerman, Michael Huttenlocher, Ryan Leske, and Krista Meany. Other McDermott attorneys who have provided invaluable pro bono assistance to The Mattachine Society’s mission include: James Camden, Britt Haxton, Lisa Gerson and Megan Morley.
About McDermott’s Commitment to Pro Bono Work
McDermott Will & Emery recognizes and appreciates the need to give back to the communities of which it is a part and to assist those who are unable to afford legal services. The Firm offers a comprehensive pro bono and community service program managed and led by its full-time pro bono counsel and the chair of our Pro Bono & Community Service Committee, which seeks to ensure that the same standards of quality, service and care that McDermott gives to its paying clients are also afforded to those it serves on a pro bono basis. The Firm strongly encourages its lawyers and staff to participate in pro bono initiatives, volunteer services and charitable activities, and it recognizes lawyer time dedicated to pro bono and community service as equivalent to billable hours for all purposes. For more about McDermott’s commitment to social responsibility, click here.
About McDermott Will & Emery
McDermott Will & Emery is a premier international law firm with a diversified business practice. Numbering more than 1,000 lawyers, we have offices in Boston, Brussels, Chicago, Dallas, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, Houston, London, Los Angeles, Miami, Milan, Munich, New York, Orange County, Paris, Rome, Seoul, Silicon Valley and Washington, D.C. Further extending our reach into Asia, we have a strategic alliance with MWE China Law Offices in Shanghai.
About The Mattachine Society of Washington, DC
The Mattachine Society of Washington, D.C., a non-profit 501 c-3 corporation, conducts original archival research and educational programs that focus on gay and lesbian legal, political and policy history.