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November 12, 2008 5:40 PM

Skadden Partner Pens Romance Novel--With a Twist

Posted by Drew Combs

Smithg_bw The passage of California's Proposition 8 has--for the moment at least--rescinded marriage rights for same sex couples and sent protesters back to the barricades. For Gregory Smith, a Palo Alto-based corporate partner at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom who married his longtime partner in September, the impact has been intensely personal. As it happens, Smith, right, is ready with a written response. Under the nom de plum G. Carlos Smith, he has written a romantic novel which, according to the publisher, P.D. Publishing, "considers the tragic effects of laws like Proposition 8 while offering a new hope.” The book, titled A Matter of Choice, chronicles the lives of two men "as they find their way during unforgiving but changing times."

The Am Law Daily recently caught up with Smith to ask him about the new book, Proposition 8, and how he has balanced literary pursuits with his legal practice.

It's not everyday that a corporate attorney at a large national firm writes a gay romance novel. So what prompted you to write the book?

I was frustrated during the last election in 2004 when so many of these anti-gay propositions found resounding success in a number of states. I wanted to talk about the consequences of these measures, and how they impact gay and lesbian people.

I imagine being a partner at Skadden is fairly consuming. How did you find the time to write this book?

I am a person who doesn't need a lot of sleep, but it was a real struggle. I grossly underestimated the commitment. I was naïve and thought I would plop down in front of my computer and write the book in six months. It took three years.

One of the main characters is a lawyer. Have you mined your own career for plot elements?

It doesn't draw on my law firm experience a whole lot but most novels have some autobiographic element. We don't live in a vacuum. It is very easy to write about a profession you understand. Also, the book describes the effect of law on people's lives so I wanted one of the characters to have a good grasp of the law.

How have your colleagues reacted to the book?

It just became available three days ago, so I haven't gotten a lot of feedback. It has moved to the top of the gay romance list on Amazon.com. I've got to believe that is my colleagues and friends getting [the book] to see if they are in it. They will be disappointed.

Four years after you were first inspired to write the book, just as it is coming out, these voter initiatives are still very popular as the passage of Proposition 8 demonstrates.

It is truly tragic. There is no question in my mind that this law formalizes a second-class citizenry among gay and lesbian people. It has little utility other than to stigmatize gay and lesbian relationships.

What are your thoughts on the protests that have sprung up in cities throughout California following the passage of Proposition 8?

It is not surprising. Many people felt like they were so vindicated by the wording of the state Supreme Court decision, [which granted marriage rights to gay couples in May]. To see it reversed so quickly and by such a narrow margin is very upsetting. People have an awful lot of pent up anger. Are the protests productive? I don't know. Obviously as a lawyer I would like to see people resolve their differences amicably.

How has Proposition 8 impacted your own marriage?

I have been with my partner for 10 years. We have three kids. When the state Supreme Court decision came down we immediately began planning our wedding. We were married in September. We had just gotten comfortable with calling each other husband. Now, I don't know what we are.

You wrote the book under the name G. Carlos Smith, but you practice under the name Gregory Smith.  What's up with the pen name?

Aside from the multiple personalities, G. Carlos Smith is a little more colorful.

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