Gay Lawyers – the LGBT division of Giambrone, an international law firm with offices in cities including London, Milan, Munich, Rome and Barcelona – has been delivering legal advice to the LGBT community for over a decade. Here, the team answer our questions.
Please give us a brief history of your company.
Gay Lawyers was founded in 2004 as the LGBT arm of Giambrone, a mid-tier international law firm. The team that work within Gay Lawyers are mainly part of the LGBT community and therefore the division provides a secure protected environment for clients when addressing the particular issues that frequently arise within the LGBT community.
Why do we need a gay law company?
The compelling reason for the creation of Gay Lawyers was to enable LGBT clients to be able to feel totally comfortable and feel that if their issue involved events that could be construed by some as embarrassing for whatever reason, they can discuss the circumstances without fear of being judged or laughed at. Gay Lawyers can offer a level of support that goes above and beyond and cannot be found at other gay friendly law firms. For example, having lived life as gay person, team members truly know the brutal cost of a sustained campaign of verbal abuse in the workplace can create. We fully understand that constantly repeated spiteful comments together with loss of status and promotion that some individuals have to endure can bring them to a crisis sooner than a person who is simply being challenged on their competence, as gay abuse challenges what the person is, not just their skills. Gay Lawyers believe that our empathy leads our clients to be completely frank and therefore they do not hold back vital evidence simply because it is too painful or embarrassing to mention, which, in turn, provides better quality evidence with which to fight a case. We also try, as far as possible, to involve the services of barristers from within the LGBT community, should the matter be taken that far. However, we prefer to negotiate out of court if possible to limit costs to our clients.
Can you tell us about the team? Are they LGBT, men, women etc?
As previously mentioned, our team is mainly composed of individuals from the LGBT community, but not exclusively. Everyone within the team empathises and is understanding with regards to the, sometimes unique issues, which arise from being part of the LGBT community. The people in the Gay Lawyers team have often had the same negative experiences as our clients describe and can understand only too well the impact such events have.
With gay marriage comes divorce, what are the particular problems with a gay couple divorcing?
Gay marriage inevitably brings gay divorce to some people; the causes of a gay break up are no different to that of straight people – infidelity, abandonment, violence or simply falling out of love. However, often the circumstances surrounding the marriage and children can be different and require particular expertise to assist. Frequently, if an older person has found their partner in a different country, problems can arise where there are children and there is no agreement as to where and with whom the children are to reside. Cross-border legal issues can be prolonged and complex. Also there can be issues in a divorce arising from surrogacy if the proper steps were not carried out to give parental responsibility to both partners. There can also be issues around the exploitation of a wealthier partner when it becomes clear that the marriage was a vehicle to obtain assets.
Do a lot of couples set a pre-nuptial agreement? And would you advise this?
As far as pre-nuptial agreements are concerned there is a compelling argument which suggests that if there is an imbalance of assets or a family business is involved, or perhaps a substantial inheritance is expected, a pre-nuptial agreement is a wise course of action. This enshrines how the couple were thinking at the time of their marriage and is helpful some time later following a divorce in the division of assets. A pre-nuptial agreement is not enforceable by law but is persuasive and since 2010 is always considered by the court. A pre-nuptial agreement can be overturned if the terms create an unfavourable situation for any children of the marriage.
Doesn’t that kill the romance?
Far from being a romance killer such an agreement would allay the fears of the partner with the greater assets that their intended partner was not marrying them for their money but for true love. As the marriage progresses over time and the less advantaged partner is deemed to have contributed to the relationship there is nothing to stop a couple renouncing or amending the agreement.
What services do you offer regarding discrimination etc?
Unfortunately there is still a great deal of discrimination being delivered to LGBT individuals in varying degrees of offensiveness. It is found in the workplace, in various professional and commercial services, such as service in a restaurant, and it also can be found in schools and in the military. Gay Lawyers prefers to take a robust approach if the behaviour has been sustained over a period of time. Organisations must recognise that they become complicit if they do not address the discriminatory behaviour of the employees or volunteers that work for them.
Do you offer services to trans people as well as gay and lesbian? Are there specific problems for trans people?
Of course we assist trans people; they probably walk the most difficult path of the LGBT community. Their unique issue is that of finding it difficult to fit into and be accepted as the gender that they feel they should be. They frequently experience the worst abuse of the LBGT community and are treated with scorn. Gay Lawyers will always consider assisting any member of the LGBT community and use our best efforts to resolve their issues and deliver the best possible outcome. We are shortly to launch a free legal advice clinic once a month at our offices for the assistance of any LGBT person who would like an opinion on their issue.