At the ninth Stonewall lecture last night (June 24) 150 guests – including Lord Justice Munby, Chair of the Law Commission – heard stark evidence of the continuing barriers facing lesbian and gay people joining the judiciary.
Delivering his lecture at the 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.’ Professor Moran recommended that the judiciary actively engage with Stonewall’s Workplace Equality Index to develop their lesbian, gay and bisexual staff.
Daniel Winterfeldt from Simmons & Simmons revealed preliminary research results from the InterLaw Diversity Forum showing negative perceptions of the judiciary: ‘The judiciary isn’t on the career horizons of many LGBT legal professionals. Over 70% 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.’
Chaired by Lord Justice Etherton, the lecture was followed by a lively question and answer session.
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.’
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