Wash. bar pushing marriage redefinition with fees of objectors

Letter objects to mandatory bar using fees to take sides on R-74
Monday, November 05, 2012

Attorney sound bite:  Brad Abramson

BELLEVUE, Wash. — A group of concerned attorneys, required by law to be dues-paying members of the Washington State Bar Association, are objecting to the association's public support for R-74, a measure that seeks to redefine marriage in the state. The lawyers, who do not support R-74, have sent a strongly worded letter to the bar citing the bar’s own rules and a U.S. Supreme Court decision that says mandatory bars can’t take sides on such matters.

“No one should take your money to promote views with which you strongly disagree. By forcing all Washington attorneys to pay for bar dues and then use that money to take any position on this measure is clearly wrong. The bar is violating its own rules and ignoring a U.S. Supreme Court decision that forbids this sort of partisan activity. The Washington Bar does not speak for all attorneys on such matters,” said Washington attorney Chris Evans, a signer of the letter and one of nearly 2,200 allied attorneys with Alliance Defending Freedom. Evans is with the Bellevue firm Venture Counsel Law International, PLLC.

On Sept. 20, the WSBA Board of Governors voted to support the “YES” campaign on R-74. If approved by voters on Nov. 6, R-74 will uphold S.B. 6239, a marriage redefinition bill that the state legislature passed. If voters reject R-74, marriage will remain the union of one man and one woman in the Evergreen State.

“The WSBA is a mandatory bar association to which all Washington State lawyers are compelled to belong. As such, under the U.S. Supreme Court case of Keller v. State Bar of California, the WSBA is not allowed to engage in activities that are of a political or ideological nature that are not necessarily or reasonably related to regulating the legal profession or improving the quality of legal services available to the public,” the letter to the bar explains.

“The current public debate on same-sex ‘marriage,’ including whether to support or oppose R-74, is a political and ideological issue and is not necessarily or reasonably related either to regulating the legal profession or improving the quality of legal services to the public,” the letter continues. “Therefore, the WSBA, in taking a ‘YES’ position on R-74, has violated the mandate of the U.S. Supreme Court in Keller.”

The letter also cites the WSBA’s own bylaws, which state that the WSBA “will not [t]ake positions on political or social issues which do not relate to or affect the practice of law or the administration of justice.” The letter asks the bar to comply with its own bylaws as well as the Supreme Court’s decision in Keller. It additionally asks for a partial refund of bar dues to the letters’ signers.

“These attorneys are speaking up for all attorneys who object to this type of coercion.  The attempts to force Americans into paying for and promoting positions that they oppose are growing far too numerous,” said Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Legal Counsel Brad Abramson. “Whether it’s making attorneys pay to support bills they oppose, forcing religious organizations and businesses to pay for abortion pill coverage or forcing pharmacists to dispense such drugs, compelling photographers and T-shirt printers to use their artistic skills to promote messages with which they completely disagree, requiring ministries to use their private property for purposes antithetical to their beliefs, or any number of other situations, freedom of conscience is clearly under attack. It’s a pattern that should concern every American.”

Alliance Defending Freedom (formerly Alliance Defense Fund) is an alliance-building legal ministry that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.
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