Professional responsibility in AZ: does unbiased representation extend to lgbt clients?

by on December 29, 2008  •  In Uncategorized

The Alliance Defense Fund is threatening litigation to block a proposed revision to the Arizona Bar Association oath that pledges unbiased representation to LGBT clients. The proposed revision to the oath states: “I will not permit considerations of gender, race, religion, age, nationality, sexual orientation, disability, or social standing to influence my duty of care.”

The ADF, which is based in Arizona and regularly opposes LGBT rights in courts across the country, said it is particularly concerned about the inclusion of “sexual orientation” in the revised oath.

In a letter to bar association president Edward Novak, the ADF and other conservative lawyers said that “the proposed provision is unnecessary, exceedingly ambiguous, and unconstitutional.”

“We are concerned most particularly that the proposed provision’s vagueness violates due-process and free-speech guarantees and that its application infringes First Amendment rights by compelling conduct and expression in conflict with an attorney’s philosophical or religious beliefs as well as his other professional responsibilities. … [T]he proposed provision, unlike any other part of the Arizona Bar Oath or Ethics Rules, may be interpreted to force an attorney to undertake particular representation.”

The letter calls on Novak to abandon the revision and warns that if it passes it would be challenged in court. It was signed by more than 30 Arizona attorneys.

Source for the above: 365news

This ADF letter is an outrageous attempt to back the Arizona Bar Association down from making explicit what should be basic to any attorney's representation of any client.  Their First Amendment argument is bogus; no attorney with personal objections to same-sex couples, for example, would undertake to represent that couple. The proposed revision speaks of "duty of care," which refers to persons who are already clients, and would do nothing to force attorneys to take particular cases.  ADF surely knows this, just as they know that clergy would never be forced by a same-sex marriage law to marry same-sex couples, another one of their claims in the marriage cases.

There is much talk in the air of mutual respect between lgbt equality advocates and conservative religious believers who oppose equality – some across the board, some essentially only as to marriage. I share the desire for mutually respectful engagement. But I have no interest in giving credibility to those who traffic in cheap lies and sham arguments, of which this latest ADF move is unfortunately only one of many examples.

UPDATE – The National Lesbian and Gay Law Association is in contact with the Arizona Bar, urging them to proceed with the proposed anti-discrimination principle.

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