To reflect on this year’s Pride Month we spoke with District Judge Keith Etherington, who is based in Burnley and Manchester.
In his interview he discusses the ways in which he has seen the legal community evolve over the years and his hopes for full equality in the LGBTQ+ community.
How do you think the judiciary has changed its views towards people who identify as LGBTQ+?
I’ve not been a member of the judiciary long enough to notice change, but the legal profession has changed markedly since I joined a law firm in the 1980s. I recall being horrified by comments made by some of my colleagues and wondering how I could ever be out at work. But when I saw how caring and supportive they were of our first trans client, it became easier for me to be ‘me’ at work and to talk freely of my partner, without concern.
In 2009, supported by The Law Society, I organised the first entry of lawyers into the Pride parade in London. The Law Society faced criticism and hostility from some members about its support for Pride. It was accused of being obsessed with ‘political correctness’. One email from a senior partner claimed the Law Society had been “hijacked by the gays.” That was only 13 years ago. Thankfully, there has been a seismic shift in the way that the profession has supported its LGBTQ members ever since and how LGBTQ people have been reflected in the media.
What advice would you give someone who was LGBTQ+ and considering joining the judiciary?
There has never been even the smallest issue whilst I have been a judge. It is a highly supportive environment and rewarding work. It is important for all judges from a diverse background to be visible as it gives the public confidence that the judiciary is becoming more reflective of the society that we serve.
What does Pride Month 2022 mean to you?
For me, it is a time to reflect at how far we have come in the journey to equality and what work still needs to be done. Remembering battles won, such as the age of consent, civil partnership and equal marriage, but working to support and gain equality for elements of the LGBTQ community that still struggle to be accepted and recognised.
What would you like to see happen for LGBTQ+ communities in the future?
A continuing progression to full equality must be the primary aim for the community both in the UK and internationally. Although many rights have been won, we mustn’t be complacent and believe that they can never be taken away or diluted.