Top lawyer resists pressure to pull out of case involving same-sex couple

Dinah Rose QC says she has professional duty to represent Cayman Islands government against couple claiming right to marry


One of Britain’s top Jewish lawyers said she will resist pressure to drop a case representing a British overseas territory against the claims of two women who believe they have the legal right to marry.

Dinah Rose QC, who will be appearing for the Cayman Islands at an appeal to the Privy Council next month, has been accused of acting for a government that wants to deny LGBTIQ people equality.

But the barrister, who became president of Oxford University’s Magdalen College last year, explained that she had a professional obligation to take on the case.

At issue is whether the law in the Cayman Islands already permits same-sex marriage or whether this is a right yet to be decided by the island’s parliament. The Cayman Islands approved civil partnerships for same-sex couples last year.

According to the Oxford University student newspaper, Cherwell, Ms Rose’s participation was attacked by Edwin Cameron, a former member of South Africa’s Constitutional Court and a gay rights activist.

He was dismayed that she was acting “on behalf of the government of the Cayman Islands in litigation that seeks to deny equality for LGBTIQ people”, the paper reported.

But legal commentator Joshua Rozenberg explained that she was obliged to accept the brief according to the “cab rank rule”, under which “barristers who are are free to do so must take a case that is within their knowledge and expertise”.

Ms Rose said that pressure was “now being put on me to cease to act in this case, on the basis of threats of adverse publicity both for me and the college”.

But were she to succumb to it, she would “commit an act of serious professional misconduct”.

It was, she said, “a long-standing principle, essential to the maintenance of access to justice and the rule of law that a lawyer is not to be equated with their client, and is not to be subject to pressure to reject an unpopular brief.”

Mr Rozenberg said, “It’s extraordinary that Dinah Rose, of all people, should be accused of supporting homophobia. She has argued a number of cases which have advanced LGBTQ+ rights, including a recent landmark case in Hong Kong in which she won equal rights to employment visas for same-sex couples.”

In 2012, Ms Rose was among a number of Jewish lawyers who criticised Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks and the London Beth Din for opposing the introduction of civil marriage for same-sex couples in the UK.

Twelve years ago, she successfully represented the child of a non-Orthodox convert who had been denied entry to JFS because his conversion was not recognised by the Chief Rabbinate. Her victory at the Supreme Court meant Jewish schools could no longer admit pupils simply on the basis of whether their parents were Jewish.

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