The President of the Law Society of NSW, Pauline Wright, and Robin Speed have met to discuss a joint Press Release issued by the Presidents of the Law Society of NSW, the NSW Bar Association and the Australian Medical Association on same sex marriage laws.

Mr Speed and the other requisitioners have called for a requisition of an Extraordinary General Meeting of members of the Law Society to address two matters raised by that Press Release. The two matters have now been addressed to the satisfaction of Mr Speed and the position of the Law Society on these issues has been confirmed with this Press Release. The requisition has achieved its objective and will not proceed.

In light of concerns raised with her that the press release held out that solicitors had formed a united view on same-sex marriage, the President wishes to state that they have not. There has been no survey or poll of solicitors on the issue. The views expressed were those of a majority of the Council of the Law Society, and not those of the members.

It is not the Law Society's practice to canvass its members' views on the various policy issues it considers other than through its committees, which are drawn from its membership following annual calls for expressions of interest.

Lawyers have an obligation to question any adverse consequence of a proposed change to the existing law, in particular how it will affect the dignity and equality of all Australians and the impact on justice, fairness and other freedoms. This is made difficult, if not impossible when there is no available draft legislation containing the proposed change. 

The Law Society will carefully scrutinise any draft legislation which ultimately becomes available to ensure that the proposed change does not have any adverse impact on religious or other traditional freedoms we presently enjoy.

The Law Society President, Pauline Wright, has indicated that two parallel working groups will be appointed to inform and advise Law Society Committees and the Society's Council as to legislative regulatory safe guards which should be put in place to:

  1. respect aspirations to equality and to protect and guarantee freedom of speech, conscience, thought, religion, associations, assembly, expression and other essential freedoms and rights
  2. advise as to actions which might be taken with a view to ensuring that such safeguards are put in place in connection with existing or proposed changes to marriage laws. 

One working group will be chaired by a committee of Robin Speed and two others nominated by him. A second group will be appointed by the President in consultation with the chair of the Society's Diversity and Inclusion and Human Rights Committees.

The President has indicated that this approach will allow for matters raised by Mr Speed to be presented in a structured way, with consideration by the Law Society's Committees, as well as the Law Society Council. It is important to ensure that the process is also subject to input by our lawyers who are drawn from the relevant committees.

The Law Society will be pleased to work with both of the parallel working groups.

Whatever their views on the issue of same-sex marriage, lawyers are encouraged to vote in the postal survey, recognising that equality is not an absolute.

Media Contact: Marianna Papadakis 02 9926 0288 or 0413 440 or media@lawsociety.com.au

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