Lifelong LGBT advocate Lady Hale announces retirement from Supreme Court

Vic Parsons December 18, 2019
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Lady Hale speaking in her valedictory ceremony at the Supreme Court on December 18, after announcing her retirement.

Supreme Court president Lady Hale – the first-ever woman to hold the post in UK history – has announced she’s retiring next month.

The 74-year-old Baroness Hale of Richmond has been a lifelong support of LGBT+ rights, including same-sex adoption rights and equal marriage.

She was appointed to the Supreme Court – the UK’s highest court – in 2009, and became its president in 2017.

“Clearly she’s a woman who can’t see a glass ceiling without breaking through it… her spider brooch in particular has become a symbol of swashbuckling womanhood,” said Lord Reed, deputy president of the Supreme Court, opening Lady Hale’s valedictory ceremony at the Supreme Court on December 18.

“Thank you all for your very kind words. I’ll try and remember some of them – I think swashbuckling womanhood will appear in some of my future speeches,” Lady Hale said.

“Not everyone thinks I’m such a good thing,” she said. “In 2004, my appointment [to the law lords] was said to epitomise a moral vacuum in our establishment.”

Lady Hale added: “You do have to feel sorry for the very male institutions that have had to adjust to the contributions that women can make.

“Some stereotyping has lived on – why else was I put in charge of arts and interiors when we moved into this building?

“But I’m glad – I cared about how our building looked.”

Lady Hale’s valedictory ceremony at the Supreme Court on December 18, after she announced her retirement.

Lady Hale has been a judge since 1994, meaning she must retire in January when she turns 75 – like all UK judges appointed before 1995.

Described as “the Beyoncé of the legal world”, Lady Hale is a self-declared feminist – the first “out” feminist to sit as a Supreme Court justice – and advocate for equality.

She has proved controversial to some through her law career, vocally supporting marriage equality and same-sex adoption rights.

The family law expert, who grew up in Yorkshire, advocated for same-sex marriage almost a decade before the UK introduced the change, and five years before Stonewall backed the move.

However, she was also part of a Supreme Court that unanimously decided in 2018 that Ashers Baking Company was not guilty of discrimination in refusing to bake a pro-gay marriage cake.

“The bakers’ objection was to the message and not to the man,” Lady Hale said, reading the judgement.

In September this year, it was Lady Hale who delivered the Supreme Court ruling that Boris Johnson’s decision to suspend parliament was unlawful.

As well as the Brexit-induced chaos she found herself in the midst of, Lady Hale’s spider brooch became the subject of much internet adoration.

The Cambridge graduate has now been appointed an honorary professor at UCL’s law school, which she’s been on the board of since its establishment in 2010.

Lady Hale said: “I am delighted to be rejoining the academic world as an honorary professor at UCL.

“UCL Laws is a ground-breaker in its work on the judiciary and the judicial system and I hope to be able to make a real contribution to that — and one which will have a real impact upon the everyday lives of real people.”

Lady Hale’s motto was: “Women are equal to everything.”

Related topics: feminism, judge brenda, lady hale, spider brooch, supreme court

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