Sodomy Law, the UK’s Persisting Legacy and the Great Quandary

Inner Temple LGBTQ+ Society Lecture, 18 April 2023
In this Qualifying Session lecture, delivered in person and as a webinar, The Hon Michael Kirby AC CMG (Inner Temple Bencher), former Justice of the High Court of Australia and LGBTQ+ / human rights campaigner, outlined the long history of criminal laws against LGBTIQ people throughout England’s Empire. It has proved remarkably resistant to abolition even in recent times. Master Kirby took an active part in the formulation of the Charter of the Commonwealth of Nations 2013 and recently took part in London in celebrations of the 10th anniversary of this Charter, stating fundamental values that are agreed upon. Yet despite values of equality and non-discrimination, anti-gay laws persist in more than 30 Commonwealth countries. They exist in law and are enforced by lawyers. This presents the quandary that now faces the Commonwealth. How can advocates of change advance rigorously the espoused principles without risking the counter assertions of cultural, social and religious beliefs and undermining the value of mutual respect that holds this unique community of nations together?

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