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Wash Post: Criminals use guns to kill cops, so cops should not use guns to kill criminals - otherwise the good guys are no better than the bad guys

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No, that's not really what the Washington Post said, but it is the flawed logic they're now using to convince gay Americans to stop defending themselves against bigots.

Joe wrote earlier today about how the Washington Post is now criticizing the gay community, and HRC, for pressuring King & Spalding to drop its defense of DOMA.  The Post's argument is a common logical fallacy used by people unable to deal with nuance. During I'd often get asked: How is your boycott of Dr. Laura's TV show any different from a religious right boycott of Ellen? After all, you're using the sane tactic they used against you! And I'd tell them, we're offended by Dr. Laura because she's a bigot, they're offended by Ellen because she's gay. What makes the religious right action "wrong" isn't that they chose a boycott over, say, a protest. What makes them morally wrong is the motivation for the boycott, and their motivation is bigotry.

In a nutshell, the Post's argument against us is this: Bigots used to refuse to defend gay clients in court, so gays shouldn't stop anti-gay legislation from being defended in court.

A few problems:

1. Legislation isn't people.  I suspect most people would agree that a person's inability to find a lawyer is a more serious thing than legislation's inability to find a lawyer.

2. A tactic is not per se bad just because bad guys use it too.  To wit: The gun analogy I use in the title.  Criminals use guns to kill cops, so cops shouldn't use guns to kill criminals, otherwise they're no better than the bad guys.  How is this any different than the example the Post gives of lawyer being afraid to defend gays?

Or how about this: The religious right boycotts businesses who aren't bigoted towards gays (and they do), so African-Americans were wrong to launch the 1955 Montgomery bus boycott against businesses that were bigoted towards blacks.  After all, aren't both sides using the same tool on the same issue, civil rights?

Just because two people, one good and one bad, are using the same tactic, that doesn't make the tactic evil in all cases.  Right and wrong are determined by the motivation of the person wielding the tactic.  If you boycott a TV show because a character on it is racist (and the show seems to be lauding racism), you are doing a good thing.  If you boycott a TV show because a character is gay (and you hate gays), you are doing a wrong thing.  Both of you are using the same tactics, but one of you is wrong and one of you is right.  Criminals shooting cops is wrong, while cops shooting criminals is right.

Why is that so difficult to grasp?

And finally, back to the Washington Post's example.  I think it's without a doubt true that most lawyers would be uncomfortable defending Fred Phelps (the religious right leader who holds signs saying "God hates fags" at the funerals of gay people, and who protests the funerals of American troops) in a civil case.  I think most lawyers would be uncomfortable defending the Ku Klux Klan in a civil case.  The Post would have you believe that it's dishonorable of those lawyers to refuse to defend Phelps and the Klan.  And in fact, our attorney general, Eric Holder, would have you believe that "the best" thing you could do to honor your legal profession is to put everything aside and defend Fred Phelps and the Klan in those civil trials.

I disagree.

I don't think "the best" thing our attorney general could ever do in his career is defend the Ku Klux Klan.  I think, I hope, that our President hired Eric Holder to do something better than making a fast buck off of the worst filth in our society.  But Holder, and the Post, ascribe to the notion that all lawyers and all clients are morally neutral.  We, as lawyers, simply exist to make a fast buck representing anybody and everybody.  Actually, Holder and the Post go further than that.  They are suggesting that all clients are not morally neutral.  That in fact, you're a better human being if you make a lot of money representing filth in a civil trial than you would be representing a mom who lost her entire family to a drunk driver.  Ambulance chasers unite, you have nothing to lose but your chains!

What the Post is doing is assuming that these are criminal trials.  And in criminal trials you are presumed innocent until proven guilty.  That's why you get a lawyer, no matter what, to defend you. It's your constitutional right to have a lawyer.  DOMA is not facing a criminal trial, and DOMA therefore does not have a constitutional right to a lawyer.

When it comes down to it, I think Rosa Parks was a remarkable woman who showed remarkable courage defying the law on behalf of her people and her humanity.  Would the latter-day Washington Posts and Eric Holders of the 1950s have told Rosa Parks that she was too mean, and that her tactics were enabling the very racists she was protesting?  After all, Rosa Parks was protesting racist southerners, and racist southerners were protesting Rosa Parks.  So wasn't it all really the same thing?

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