Lawyers that make a difference: fighting for LGBT rights through the courts

Key Information

Tuesday 23 February18:00 - 19:30Please complete the booking form to receive joining instructions.

About the talk

Hertfordshire Law Clinic is delighted to invite you to a panel event, chaired by the Dean of Hertfordshire Law School Penny Carey, to celebrate the positive impact of public interest lawyers in advancing the rights of LGBT people in the UK.

There have been huge advances for LGBT equality in the UK over the last 20 years, with the advent of civil partnerships in 2004, and more recently same-sex marriage. But change has been painfully slow. Section 28, which prevented schools from talking positively about homosexuality, was only repealed in 2003. In the same year LGBT people finally received protection against discrimination in the workplace.

This event celebrates lawyers who have played a significant role in advancing LGBT rights through some of the landmark court cases of the last few years. Gain a valuable insight into the stories behind the headlines as we speak to the barristers involved.

We'll learn about the case of a bakery in Northern Ireland who refused to ice 'Support Gay Marriage' on a cake. The bakery, owned by evangelical Christians, argued that it was against their religious beliefs and declined the order. The case raised interesting legal arguments around the conflict of sexual freedom and religious freedom. Robin Allen QC will offer a valuable insight into this high profiled case, which has journeyed through the courts and is currently awaiting to be heard by the European Court of Human Rights.

We'll also hear from Raza Husain QC who successfully argued that his Iranian client should be granted refugee status. Asylum was originally refused on the basis that his client could be reasonably expected to conceal his sexual identity in order to avoid persecution in his home country. The landmark decision legally recognised that a gay person is entitled to live freely and openly, in the same way that a straight person can.

Join all our speakers, as together we discuss the importance of bringing discrimination cases to court.

About the speakers

Paul Staddon had a successful career at the Bar spanning over 30 years before retiring last year. Paul acted for the tenant in the case of Godin Mendoza v Ghaidan [2004] 2AC 557. In this case, he successfully argued that the gay partner of a deceased statutory tenant should be treated as if he were the spouse of the deceased, thereby giving him the right to inherit the statutory tenancy in accordance with the Human Rights Act. This case remains the leading authority on the ambit of section 3 of the Human Rights Act. Read Paul's CV to find out more.

Catherine Casserley is a barrister at Cloisters Chambers. She specialises in discrimination and equality, employment and human rights law and in both private and public law. She appeared in Preddy and Hall v Bull and Bull where she successfully represented a gay couple who were prevented from occupying a double hotel room by its owners. This was the first case of its kind, which reached it's successful conclusion in the Supreme Court.  She also represented the claimant in the first case of non employment harassment (taken as a direct discrimination case) on the basis of sexual orientation. She has represented a number of transgender cases, including against a major restaurant chain. Read Catherine's CV to find out more.

Robin Allen QC is a leading equality law barrister based at Cloisters Chambers, having twice been Chambers and Partners' Employment Law QC of the Year. Robin has given evidence to Parliamentary Committees on the technical aspects of proposed legislation such as the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013, and on behalf of the Bar Council. He advised the European Commission on the content of the first two key equality Directives. He represented Mr Lee in Lee v Ashers Baking Company Ltd and others, and is instructed to do so again when the case goes to the European Court of Human Rights. He also represented the Equality and Human Rights Commission in the Preddy and Hall hotel case. Read Robin's CV to find out more.

Raza Husain QC is a leading public law barrister based at Matrix Chambers, specialising in immigration and human rights. He successfully appeared as advocate in the Supreme Court in HJ Iran, where the Supreme Court reversed a line of Court of Appeal authority. It was decided that asylum should not be refused to a refugee on the basis that it could be considered reasonably tolerable that the asylum-seeker would have to hide their true sexuality on return to their home country in order to avoid persecution. Read Raza's CV to find out more.

About Hertfordshire Law Clinic

Hertfordshire Law Clinic was launched by Hertfordshire Law School in 2019. It provides students with the opportunity to gain practical legal experience while helping address the issue of unmet need in our community. You can find out more on Hertfordshire Law Clinic's webpage. Since its launch, the clinic has provided free legal advice to over 200 clients on a range of issues including family and employment law. Hertfordshire Law Clinic won the award for best new pro bono project at the LawWorks and Attorney General Student Pro Bono Awards in 2020. You can read more about this award on the LawWorks website.