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Pay no attention to the people behind the curtain

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Rick Esenberg and the ADF

A follow-up to something I mentioned yesterday: Rick Esenberg has clarified his relationship to the Alliance Defense Fund:
First, I do not work for ADF and I will not take upon myself the burden of agreeing with every position taken by every client they represent if for no other reason that I am not aware of them. What I do with ADF is consider referrals from them of pro bono work. I was asked to blog on a law blog they have created. This does not mean that I become involved in everything they do or that they consult with me on anything they do. I think ADF is a fine organization that provides excellent legal representation to religious conservatives (on lots of issues that have nothing to do with gays and lesbians), but Rick is not ADF and ADF is not Rick.
Thanks to Rick for explaining his role; as I noted, given the paucity of appearances of his name on ADF's website, it seemed unlikely that the connection was strong.

However, Rick goes on in that post to say this, about the ADF and the possible consequences of the language in the second sentence of the anti-gay-marriage-and-civil-unions-and-any-other-substantially-similar-legal-arrangement amendment:
As to what position ADF will take on domestic partner benefits, I don't know. I think the question is too imprecise to even hazard a guess. I do know that they have taken the position that reciprocal benefit schemes are OK. What they are hinky about (and, I think, rightly so) is in creating statuses that are "marriage lite." They don't mind people sharing benefits (as long as its not part of a status like marriage) or entering into agreements under which they may assume certain obligations toward another.

My opinion, after thinking a lot since I first blogged about it in March, is that the amendment would not prohibit an employer from saying that you can designate another person to share your health insurance. I can't tell you whether people employed by ADF would agree. They are smart guys and girls and form their own opinions.
That completely doesn't square with reality; in the post I linked to yesterday, Joshua Freker documents that time after time the ADF has gone after partner benefits, both in Wisconsin and around the country. Neither Josh nor Rick distinguishes that these challenges seem to be of public employees' benefits, not the private sector; but as a public employee (Milwaukee Public Schools), I can tell you that I don't want the ADF meddling in what my employer can and can't do, the way they tried to in Madison. And ADF-affiliated attorneys have challenged more than just bennies, up to and including domestic violence protections.

These are not abstract "Oh, gee, I don't know what would happen" sort of questions. Rick Esenberg, too, is a smart man and a smart enough attorney to know precedent when he sees it. He's waffling when he says he doesn't know what ADF might do. And his defense--that the ACLU might sue demanding recognition of same-sex marriage without the amendment--is not enough to cover that waffling.

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