Members of Australia’s legal profession have come out in support of NSW Law Society president Pauline Wright following recent criticisms made towards the council of the legal body.
The Australian Lawyers for Human Rights (ALHR) has thrown its support behind Ms Wright, after she and the broader council of the Law Society of NSW was criticised by two members of the legal body following her involvement in a joint statement with the NSW Bar Association and the Australian Medical Association (NSW).
A joint statement released by the three parties said the professions were united in their support of the legalisation of same-sex marriage at a federal level.
Two lawyers – Speed & Stracey CEO Robin Speed and another Law Society insider who wishes to remain anonymous – expressed their frustration over Ms Wright’s role in the joint statement, calling the so-called unified stance on marriage equality laws “false and misleading”.
In addition, Mr Speed said that the decision to join in on the statement was made “without a credible survey of members of the legal profession”. According to Fairfax Media, Mr Speed also called for Ms Wright to “immediately resign” following the issue.
However, the ALHR has hit back at the criticism being handed to Ms Wright on the matter, saying that it is a disappointing development.
“ALHR strongly and unequivocally supports the joint statement,” said ALHR’s LGBTI committee co-chair Nicholas Stewart.
“The few but vocal members of the legal profession calling for the president’s resignation do not in our view speak for the vast majority of lawyers and barristers who are committed to fundamental legal principles including equality before the law.”
“In making the joint statement, the NSW Law Society and Ms Wright were speaking on a matter that was resolved by motion at the council level. Marriage equality is a fundamental aspect of realising legal equality, removing discrimination and improving human rights protections for LGBTI Australians. It is a vital step on the path to holistic LGBTI inclusion.”
Mr Stewart added that as lawyers “we are uniquely placed to speak out in support of human rights and the rule of law”.
“We have a special role to play in educating the public about the importance of fundamental principles such as equality and non-discrimination,” he said.
“One person’s right to freedom of speech or freedom of religion does not trump the right of LGBTI Australians to live free from discriminatory laws.
“Those who have criticised their professional body or its president for resolving to speak in favour of a human rights reform appear to neglect well-established international jurisprudence to this effect, particularly in circumstances where marriage equality is constitutional and is overwhelmingly supported by most Australians.”
ALHR LGBTI committee co-chair Kathryn Cramp echoed this sentiment.
“In a growing climate of homophobia with the first ‘No’ campaign advertisement playing on television and offensive posters appearing around the country, this is the time to voice support for marriage equality to show the LGBTI community that they are not isolated,” she said.
“We applaud the NSW Law Society and president Pauline Wright for their advocacy and look forward to other organisations following suit.”