14 December 2017

Pro bono work – vital for marriage equality and the challenges that remain

The process was long and unorthodox but amendments to the Marriage Act to allow same-sex marriage in Australia have recognised the fundamental human right to equality before the law and the right to be free from discrimination for LGBTIQ+ people.

Pro bono legal work has provided vital assistance in helping to achieve this change. As outlined by the Australian Pro Bono Law Centre lawyers have assisted LGBTIQ+ people to realise their rights not only in relation to marriage but to be free from discrimination and equal before the law.

Lawyers are uniquely placed to help ensure equal rights are fully realised for LGBTIQ+ people not only through providing access to justice to enforce their rights but by helping to build awareness and a more inclusive community. Law firms have helped support LGBTIQ+ organisations and proudly provided support for the marriage equality campaign.

We are proud at Hall & Wilcox to have been involved with establishing the Victorian Pride Centre. The Centre will showcase LGBTIQ+ art and history; bring together advisory, health and support services, and feature community spaces to provide a safe social environment. It will serve as a hub for LGBTIQ+ groups and organisations, sharing ideas and resources to further their work in supporting equality, diversity and inclusion across the state.

It would be naïve to assume that the long history of discrimination against LGBTIQ+ people will cease now that there is marriage equality. The issue of religious freedoms is set to become one of 2018’s major talking points. With Australia lacking a bill of rights, any debate around religious freedoms will be highly political. Pro bono lawyers will again play a key role to ensure that the debate promotes, protects and respects the rights of everyone and the rights of freedom of religion and to be free from discrimination are properly balanced.

The right to equal protection of the law without discrimination requires governments to prohibit discrimination and act to protect against discrimination. Pro bono lawyers assisted with holding the government to account to help bring about marriage equality. This work will continue to ensure a true inclusive and accepting society.