Current Affairs

Lesbian and gay lawyers ‘deterred from becoming judges’

PinkNews Staff Writer July 6, 2010
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Research has has suggested that the judiciary is failing to represent lesbian and gay people.

According to a study by LGBT lawyers’ network Interlaw, a perception of hostility to out gay judges, judicial culture and the isolation of the job puts gay and lesbian lawyers off becoming judges.

Until 1991, only married people were appointed to the bench to avoid having gay judges. This policy was put in place by Lord Hailsham in the 1970s.

A review of the judicial system by Liberal Democrat peer Lady Neuberger, released earlier this year, recommended the profession should strive for more sexual diversity.

However, there are still no estimates on how many judges are gay and lesbian and the research is at a preliminary stage.

Discussing the first findings at a Stonewall lecture last month, Law Society professor Leslie Moran of Birkbeck College said: “Only 20 years ago it was policy only to appoint married people to the bench in order to avoid a ‘homosexual controversy’ in the judiciary.

“The chilling effect of this exclusion is likely to have shaped the careers and career expectations of the most senior legal professionals who have the skills and characteristics that would otherwise make them suitable candidates.”

Daniel Winterfeldt, a lawyer from Simmons & Simmons and the founder of Interlaw, said: “The judiciary isn’t on the career horizons of many LGBT legal professionals.

“Over 70 per cent of respondents said that having more openly LGBT members of the judiciary would encourage them to apply for a judicial career.

“Judges are still seen as middle aged, middle class, and drawn from a very narrow pool. Much more needs to be done to embed ‘the judiciary’ as a career option and to transform understandings about the appointments process.”

Ben Summerskill, Stonewall chief executive said: “People perform better when they can be themselves and all workplaces benefit from a diverse workforce able to reach their full potential.

“Sexual orientation shouldn’t be a barrier to judicial appointments and we urge the Judicial Appointments Commission to look closely at these recommendations to help them as an employer to reflect modern Britain.”

Related topics: Employment

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