A commitment to working for LGBT pro bono rights at K&L Gates

Aritha Wickramasinghe has been recognised by the Financial Times as number one on the list of 'Top 30 Future LGBT Leaders', in part for his work on this matter.

At K&L Gates it is felt that their diversity and inclusion strategy must be reflected in their pro bono work. This enables the firm to put together cross-office teams to take on matters in this space.

One of the projects that inspired the formation of the team was K&L Gates’ work in relation to non-gender rights in the UK. The project was brought to the firm by Aritha Wickramasinghe, an associate who joined K&L Gates in 2014. He joined from Clifford Chance, which continues to handle the judicial review aspects of the case. The matter is supervised at K&L Gates by partner, Jonathan Lawrence.

Issues to be addressed

K&L Gates is instructed by Christie Elan-Cane who has been campaigning for recognition of the legitimate identity of persons who are non-gendered. Christie has always used the term non-gendered as the correct definition for those who identify neither as male nor as female. This is on the basis that there are two genders. Therefore identity outside the gendered societal structure comprising two genders cannot be gendered identity. Christie has been personally affected by this issue and has led a campaign for legal recognition.

The firm is assisting Christie in the political and campaigning aspects of per work, highlighting issues of discrimination and unfair treatment faced by non-gendered persons in the UK.

Current UK legislation may be interpreted to protect the rights of non-gendered persons, however further clarification of and amendments to UK legislation are required to expressly recognise and protect non-gendered persons from discrimination and unfair treatment.

The firm recently made a submission to the Transgender Equality Inquiry of the Women and Equalities Committee in respect of the following issues:

a) terminology and definitions related to non-gendered persons
b) the UK's performance (compared internationally) in respect of recognising and protecting non-gendered person
c) the operation of the Gender Recognition Act 2004 and whether it requires amendment
d) the operation of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 and whether it requires amendment
e) the effectiveness of the Equality Act 2010 in relation to non-gendered persons

Impact

Christie was recently asked to make an oral submission to the inquiry and K&L Gates assisted in the preparation of per evidence.

Christie has put together an Early Day Motion (EDM 660) that has over 40 signatures to date, after having been tabled in early November 2015 by Norman Lamb MP. The EDM 660 recognises the support expressed during the last parliamentary session to address the issues faced by people whose identities are neither male nor female; believes that people are compromised and diminished as a result of inappropriate gender references on their personal identity information; acknowledges that all passports issued by HM Passport Office are currently gender-specific and it is therefore not possible to obtain a British passport that contains no reference to gendered identity; understands that the International Civil Aviation Organisation standard specification for machine-readable travel documents (ICAO Document 9303) permits X (unspecified) alongside F (female) and M (male) under a mandatory sex category; notes that citizens of Australia and New Zealand are able to obtain a non gender-specific X passport and that India, Nepal and Pakistan make provision for their citizens when neither M nor F are appropriate; further believes that similar provision is needed in the UK where current discriminatory policy denies non-gendered and bi-gendered people a legitimate identity; and therefore urges that the government and HM Passport Office make non gender-specific X passports available in the UK to people who do not identify with a particular gender.