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Law Society president denies he is boycotting London Pride

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Chancery Lane faces questions over Andrew Caplen’s support for sexual orientation campaign

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The English legal profession was gearing up for a mob-handed showing at tomorrow’s London Pride — but the contingent’s biggest element will be missing its leader, sparking concern that religious beliefs are responsible for his absence.

Suggestions mounted in the run-up to the march — one of the biggest annual events in the sexual-orientation rights calendar — that Law Society president Andrew Caplen had backed away because he can’t reconcile participation with his strongly held Christian beliefs.

Legal Cheek was contacted by those expressing concern that if Caplen’s religion prevented him from appearing at the march, his position could undermine the society’s wider support for sexual-orientation equality.

In the past, Chancery Lane presidents have led the Law Society presence at the event. And indeed, the Bar Council and the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives confirmed that their leaders — Alistair MacDonald QC and David Edwards, respectively — will spearhead the Legal Pride element of tomorrow’s march.

The society confirmed that Caplen would not take part, and initially would not comment on the reasons for his absence.

Instead a Chancery Lane spokesman said:

[Chief executive] Catherine Dixon is a regular attendee of Pride and offered to lead the Law Society’s participation this year. Andrew commits a substantial number of weekends to attend Law Society events.

However, the society issued a later statement saying:

Andrew Caplen had a long-standing personal commitment this weekend. Catherine Dixon will be representing the Law Society and will be joined by some council members and a number of Law Society staff.

Such a high-profile absence is likely to disappoint the many attending Legal Pride and the wider event. The Law Society represents the biggest branch of the legal profession in England and Wales, and it has been actively promoting the march.

A promotional statement on the Law Society website reads:

We will be celebrating lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans diversity in the legal profession under the banner ‘Equality under the law’ and promoting the message ‘Legal heroes fighting for LGBT justice’.

The site goes on to pay tribute to a range of lawyers that have battled for homosexual and transgender rights, continuing:

Equality for all under the law is a principle that the legal sector as a whole supports and works to promote. Lawyers are advocates of equal rights for all, whether that be challenging those who make unjust decisions, or defending those who face discrimination of any kind.

Caplen — a market-trader’s son and now a property law consultant solicitor at Hampshire high street firm Heppenstalls — makes no secret of his strong religious upbringing. He mentioned his family’s Methodism in interviews with both The Times newspaper and the Law Gazette when he took the top Law Society slot last year.

Brothers John and Charles Wesley founded Methodism — a non-conformist branch of Christianity that emerged from the Anglican Church — in the mid to late 18th century. Its motto is “born in song”, and while some adherents take a fundamentalist approach to the New Testament, the denomination is not generally viewed as being illiberal on social issues.

There are no suggestions that Caplen has in any way discriminated against homosexuals or transgender people. However, concern has been expressed that, in this instance, religious beliefs could have prevented him from supporting a campaign that has wider Law Society backing.

This afternoon Caplen told Legal Cheek:

As Law Society President I am committed to promoting equality and diversity, to supporting all our members domestically and protecting LGBT people around the world. Equality for all under the law is a central principle of the legal sector. It is my strong belief, as well as that of the legal profession, that discrimination, whether it is on the grounds of race, gender, religion or a person’s sexual orientation, is wrong and should be not be tolerated.

Caplen also has his own supporters from within the Pride movement, with Stephen Ward, deputy chairman of Pride in London, and a former head of communications at the Law Society, commenting:

The suggestion that Andrew Caplen is homophobic in any way is absolutely unfounded. He could not have been more supportive of me personally or of our work on diversity and inclusion in the legal sector.

16 Comments

Anonymous

Legal Cheek makes mountain out of molehill…

(12)(0)

Marcus

Right, so a guy who is a strong Christian doesn’t turn up to a pride march and (some?) people jump to the conclusion he is homophobic?

That does sound like prejudice…

(11)(0)

Anonymous

Absolute rubbish. Andrew Caplen is fully signed up to the equality agenda. I have heard him speak to an exclusively Christian legal gathering and he was fully behind the LGBT lobby. His wife is a liberal Church minister. Was any research done on this story?

(12)(2)

MC

“Legal Cheek was contacted by those expressing concern that if Caplen’s religion prevented him from appearing at the march, his position could undermine the society’s wider support for sexual-orientation equality.”

I very highly doubt Legal Cheek was contacted so.

(11)(0)

Keith Etherington

Ridiculous article. In all the years since the first Law Society/Bar Council/CILEX entry into the Pride parade, only two Presidents have been part of the parade and never the CEO. The Chairman of the Bar Council has never appeared and only a handful of CILEX Presidents. Andrew Caplen has been a constant voice for diversity and inclusion and has supported LGBT members consistently.
This article is headline grabbing nonsense. Shameful journalism.

(17)(0)

Stephen Ward

Keith I agree. Shame on Jonathan Ames and on Legal Cheek.

(4)(0)

Anonymous

Who cares?

Many in the legal profession would not want to waste a weekend with this silly walk.

(10)(5)

Richard Head

Agreed.

Each to their own.

I, for one, have got much better things to do tomorrow than ‘celebrate’ diversity.

My washing-up needs doing and I have some patio furniture to steam-clean.

(7)(3)

Anonymous

Quite a jump to accuse a non attendee of being a homophobe.

I am not attending the MOBO awards – this does not automatically make me a racist.

(14)(1)

Anonymous

Nasty, nasty article. Lets imply someone is homophobic with no actual evidence to support this.

Real homophobia or discrimination of any kind is abhorrent. Using it for cheap headlines, or click bait is not only revolting but is a kick in the teeth to anyone who has suffered any form of prejudice.

You should be ashamed of yourself.

(15)(1)

Ituwella

Yeah this is shit

(8)(0)

Sir Richard Richard

I hope none of my money was spent on this ‘pride’ and ‘diversity’ rubbish.

(3)(4)

Anonymous

This article is nothing short of disgusting

(3)(0)

Anonymous

I think this is perfectly understandable. London Pride should be consigned to the history books.

The major brewers have had their day and need to sod off with their long term pub tie-ins and let the craft brewing scene flourish.

(8)(3)

Anonymous

Quite right mate.

Bass > London Pride

(0)(0)

Daniel Olive

Just because someone doesn’t attend London Pride does not mean they are homophobic, or opposed to equality. I know of one chair of a university LGBT society, for example, who didn’t attend. I’m not inclined to suspect him of homophobia.

(0)(0)

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