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Equality & Diversity

 

Love and the Law – An insider’s look at the legal battle for marriage equality in Australia

Following a few short introductions from the LGBT+ Staff Network Committee, we’ll be joined by Matthew Psycharis who will be talking about his first-hand experience in the legal fight for marriage equality in Australia.

We will then have the opportunity to meet each other informally over ZOOM to discuss the talk amongst other topics of interest.

In many of the world’s liberal democracies, we may now take for granted the simple proposition that two consenting adults, regardless of sex or gender, may be lawfully married. The recognition of marriage equality speaks to a more fundamental principle – that our law ought not to discriminate between persons on the basis of gender, sex or sexuality. And yet, until only a few years ago, Australia had outlawed same-sex marriage (‘SSM’). In 2016-2017 this became a bitter battleground, which, after stasis in Parliament, ultimately culminated in a High Court constitutional challenge and a legally-mired national plebiscite.

Matthew was one of the lawyers who advised the SSM campaigners, and who ran the court case challenging the lawfulness of the government’s stance. His legal team was comprised entirely of volunteers and was arrayed against the full resources of the Australian Government. In this Chatham House talk, he will describe how a strategy of marriage equality didn’t just mean marriage equality at all costs – in the eyes of the campaigners, it had to be done the right way. With dignity. And that meant a constitutional showdown with a government committed to dragging the question of legal equality through an ugly public vote. It also meant dealing with opposition from within the legal profession. It’s a story of how, when pursuing change, means can be just as important as ends.

Biography of speaker – Matthew Psycharis:

Matthew is a lawyer, originally from Australia. Before coming to Cambridge, he worked as a litigation lawyer at a leading Australian law firm. He advised on a wide range of disputes and regulatory investigations. In a pro bono capacity, he led a series of legal teams in high-profile constitutional disputes, involving human rights, LGBT+ rights, as well as advising NGOs on issues concerning offshore refugee detention and the drafting of anti-discrimination legislation. Matthew worked as an Associate (judicial assistant) to a Judge of the Supreme Court of Victoria. And, before coming to the law, trained as an economist, working at the Department of Treasury and Finance. Now, Matthew is a second-year PhD researcher at the Cambridge Faculty of Law, researching the use and abuse of referendums and popular votes. He is also a Director of the Cambridge Pro Bono Project.

Pronouns: he/him/his

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Date: 
Wednesday, 21 October, 2020 - 17:30 to 19:00
Event location: 
Zoom Video Conferencing