Advising Gay and Lesbian Clients – A Guide for Lawyers

Review of “Advising Gay and Lesbian Clients – A Guide for Lawyers”

David Allison reviews a new textbook which covers all the issues on which a client may need advice, including discrimination and employment issues, arranging financial affairs and making wills, the family home, custody disputes, adopting children or otherwise creating them, access to social services such as housing and welfare benefits and the criminal law as it affects gay men.

A team of barristers, lawyers and experts in specific areas of the law that affect gays and lesbians have assembled a reference book that is likely to prove invaluable to all members of the legal profession who handle gay casework, criminal and civil.

This is no weighty volume destined to slumber indefinitely on the shelves of a law library. Into its 226 pages the compilers have packed a phenomenal amount of data that is eminently readable, even by those of us who have no legal training. Interpretation, though, should be left to professionals.

Eight chapters cover the history of the law since 1967, criminal law, employment rights, discrimination and many other facets of the law that impinge on our lives. Domestic and property matters are also covered as are parenting, fostering etc.. Details of how to ensure that your partner inherits when you die are provided, as are frameworks for cohabitation agreements for owner-occupiers. Little seems to have been left uncovered. One little nugget of information is that the Ecclesiastical Courts Jurisdiction Act 1860, recently used against Peter Tatchell in consequence of his temporarily sharing the Archbishop of Canterbury’s pulpit, can be used also against anyone found cruising in a churchyard.

The book is copiously annotated, fully sourced and cross-referenced, and takes a practical, non-political, advice-centred approach. At £ 35 it is hardly a snip, but considering the time that it will save lawyers in researching information, the cost will be quickly recovered. There is a thirty-day approval option for prospective purchasers in the EU.

The foreword (below) is attributed to The Rt. Hon Lord Justice Sedley Royal Courts of Justice, London, January 1999.

“The two chief claims of any system of law are –or ought to be– that it is certain and that it is just. The law affecting gay men and lesbians in Britain at present is neither. It is struggling to keep abreast of radically changing public and private moralities, sometimes accommodating change, sometimes resisting it.

“In this labile situation the present volume is not only a handbook of much- needed guidance to lawyers with gay or lesbian clients. It is a living record of how we are coping as a society with a legacy of prejudice and discrimination in a nascent culture of human rights. It makes this book a special kind of practice manual: one which openly sets out to steer the development of law and practice in a humane and non-discriminatory direction.

“The authors share a record of professional distinction and commitment which gives the book both breadth and depth. As well as affording practical guidance which cuts helpfully across the traditional categories of legal learning, their book makes an important addition to the legal literature of human rights.”

Published by Butterworth’s, ISBN: 0-406-90303-4, £ 34.95


  • Martin Bowley, QC, President of the Bar Lesbian and Gay Group;
  • Laura Cox, QC;
  • Gill Butler, Evans, Butler and Wade, Vice-Chair of Stonewall;
  • Anne Barlow, Solicitor and Lecturer in Law, University of Aberystwyth;
  • Matthew Davies, Solicitor, Wilson & Co;
  • Wesley Gryk, Solicitor, Wesley Gryk;
  • Angus Hamilton, Solicitor, Hamiltons;
  • Peter Smith, Solicitor, Smith Braithwaite;
  • Mark Watson, Stonewall

Orders may be sent to: Butterworth’s,
35 Chancery Lane,
Tel. Customer services: 020-
Fax: 020-
(There are no postal charges to addresses within the UK.)