Fight Against Gay Marriage Costing States Millions

'It's the price governments pay for defending bigotry'
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 10, 2015 3:08 PM CDT
Michael Robinson and Earl Benjamin exchange vows in New Orleans following the Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage. That ruling is now costing states that fought gay marriage millions of dollars.   (Kathleen Flynn/ The Times-Picayune via AP, POOL)

(Newser) – Attorneys who fought for the rights of same-sex couples around the country want taxpayers to know how much their lawmakers cost them by obstinately waging a losing battle against gay marriage, Al Jazeera America reports. In the wake of the Supreme Court ruling this summer, lawyers for the plaintiffs in multiple same-sex marriage cases—who mostly worked pro bono—are using a 1976 law that allows them to collect "reasonable attorney's fees" from local governments should they win their case. “Some of the tactics the state used were unnecessarily dragging out the time spent and the cost of the litigation. You have government officials who knew very well where this was headed and nonetheless defended these discriminatory laws," one lawyer tells Al Jazeera. “It’s the price governments pay for defending bigotry," says another.

Seven states have already paid attorneys more than $3.5 million in total, and at least four other states could be on the hook for nearly $5 million in fees, Al Jazeera reports. Texas, which appealed after one of its own judges ruled its same-sex marriage ban was unconstitutional, is refusing to pay the requested $741,000 in legal fees, according to the Houston Press. But experts believe the state will likely be forced to pay in the end. "The attorney's fees provision is there to protect people who go to court who try and vindicate constitutional rights and are successful," says one such expert. “This is exactly what Congress created this law for,” adds another. “It’s a recognition that people need lawyers to fight the government, which has lots of lawyers, when they feel their civil rights are being violated. To encourage lawyers to take these cases, you need to provide the potential to get paid in the end." (Read more same-sex marriage stories.)

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