It’s the Northern Pride Festival this weekend in Newcastle. How times have changed during my legal career. Before launching Emmersons Solicitors 21 years ago I experienced first-hand how prejudiced so-called professionals would act towards those who were part of, what is now known as, the LGBT+ community. A previous employer of mine would instruct the team to segregate client waiting areas – just because of their sexuality. This attitude obviously disgusted many of my colleagues and I – and it was at this point I knew that things had to change.
Additionally, at this point of course, people who were LGBT+ couldn’t marry, and the implications of this had a devastating impact on some couples. In many situations, when someone in a couple passed away, and where there wasn’t a will, the next of kin would automatically inherit an entire estate from the deceased. As many families weren’t accepting of this at the time, this could often lead to homelessness or crippling financial difficulties for the person who had been left behind. As a firm, we were delighted when laws changed to enable equal rights for everyone when it comes to marriage.
As little as 15 years ago prejudice towards people who were transitioning was rife. If the person transitioning was married, some doctors would require them to be divorced before carrying out the medical transition process. This was allegedly to prove that the person who was transitioning was willing to change their lifestyle to meet what society then deemed acceptable.
It was because of these injustices that I pledged to support the forward movement of equal rights for LGBT+ people. Over the last 21 years, society has developed and, quite rightly so, has become more accepting of the LGBT+ community.
Awareness and culture has truly taken a positive step in the right direction. Events and organisations like Northern Pride “proudly promotes Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender culture through public celebration of our heritage and engaging in education and cultural activities that enrich the community, whilst raising awareness of the issues LGBT people face, building mutual respect and working to end discrimination” - in their own words.
The progression which I have seen throughout my career is positive, however, the LGBT+ community is now facing a new crisis. People who are LGBT+ and have dementia are now experiencing difficulties in organising care and their estates. It’s awful to think how many lonely older people there are, especially those who perhaps could never be in a relationship or raise a family because of their friends, family or society’s previous outlook.
I do look after the affairs of some clients who have no one else help them. This involves a variety of tasks which include; arranging banking, bill payments, housing or care home and welfare benefits. This is often achieved under the auspices of a Lasting Power of Attorney. Moving forward, I hope that this generation could be better supported – and I look forward to supporting the cause and making a difference by campaigning for this change.
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