letters

first_img Letters Diversity As a speaker at the recent Bar diversity symposium, I’d like to address some of the concerns expressed in a June 15 letter to the News. My remarks at the symposium concerning surveys did not suggest that the Bar need concern itself with “the sexual habits of lawyers in the name of diversity.” Rather, as noted in the final report, “it will be difficult to mirror society without knowing our current composition.” Thus, the report concluded, “a survey must include all categories of diversity identified at the symposium.”Although sexual orientation was one of the categories identified by the first diversity symposium, the survey of voluntary bars undertaken in response did not include the only gay/lesbian bars listed in the Bar Journal directory. Moreover, the bars chosen were not presented with a single question about discrimination based on sexual orientation.Any written survey requires voluntary self-identification. This admittedly presents challenges and, in a culture where discrimination may result from identification, some will choose not to respond. But that is no more reason to exclude gay and lesbian attorneys than it is to ignore other categories that may require self-identification — the disabled or ethnically diverse lawyers, for example.I do not recall any suggestion of “lowering expectations or standards in the name of inclusion. . . . ”A 1994 study by the Los Angeles County Bar showed that gay or lesbian attorneys earn substantially less than their heterosexual counterparts. Similarly, in its 1999 survey, a Washington, D.C., task force found that while 38.4 percent of heterosexuals were earning $150,000 or more, only 19.6 percent of lesbian and gay lawyers did so. The task force also found gays and lesbians continue to be under-represented as partners, which has negative consequences in terms of compensation as well as advancement. In Washington state, officials worked, consulted, and studied for two years before producing their landmark report, In Pursuit of Equality : The report of The King County Bar Task Force on Lesbian and Gay Issues in the Legal Profession (1995). That study concluded, “The current state of affairs is a disgrace.”In January 2001, the California Judicial Council Access and Fairness Advisory Committee became the first state to comprehensively evaluate sexual orientation as it relates to the courts. The results were shocking:• One out of every five court employee respondents heard derogatory terms, ridicule, snickering, or jokes about gay men or lesbians in open court, with the comments being made most frequently by judges, lawyers, or court employees.• 32 percent of court employees heard ridicule, snickering, or jokes about lesbians and gay men in settings other than open court.• 28 percent reported hearing negative comments and 21 percent heard derogatory terms about gay men or lesbians.• 48 percent of court employees who observed negative actions or heard negative comments in open court took no action in response.• 56 percent of gay and lesbian court users in a contact in which sexual orientation became an issue did not want to state their sexual orientation , and 38 percent felt threatened in the courtroom setting because of their sexual orientation.If our noble profession countenances discrimination against any class of persons, let it be a choice made with knowledge. History can then judge the decisions we make armed with that knowledge. That was my point at the symposium. Larry D. Smith Maitland July 15, 2005 Letters letterslast_img read more