Rugby legend Gareth Thomas to speak at launch of DLA Piper’s LGBT networking group

GARETH THOMAS   Photo Andy Paradise
GARETH THOMAS Photo Andy Paradise
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RUGBY legend Gareth Thomas will be the keynote speaker at an event organised by law firm DLA Piper to mark the official launch of its global networking group for the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) community.

The law firm, which has offices in Leeds and Sheffield, has established Iris, an LGBT network that is open to all of the firm’s employees.

The international group is led by co-chairs Milena Falciano and Dean Peachey, who are both lawyers from DLA Piper’s Leeds office.

Ms Falciano said: “People should not be judged on who they are attracted to or which sex they identify with, but instead on their personal merit. I think having a female straight ally and a gay man leading the group together really shows that sexual orientation is not a barrier at DLA Piper. As one of the world’s largest global law firms we are intrinsically diverse and I truly believe that it is our differences and acceptance that make us such a strong global team.”

The launch will take place at an evening event at DLA Piper’s London office, hosted by global co-chairman, Juan Picon, The event will include a speech from Mr Thomas, the former Welsh rugby player.

In August 2010, Mr Thomas came top of the Pink List for the 101 Most Influential Gay People in the UK.

During his speech, Mr Thomas will speak about his sporting career, as well as his personal life, and the difficulties he experienced when trying to come to terms with his sexuality.

Commenting on the launch of the group, Mr Picon said: “At DLA Piper we are absolutely committed to supporting diversity and inclusion within the firm.

“As one of the world’s largest law firms, it is vital that our culture is one in which everyone feels respected, valued and included. Iris will provide a platform to help foster an inclusive culture and we are delighted to launch it.”
The group was named following a global internal competition, which was led by Ms Falciano and Mr Peachey.

In Greek mythology, Iris is the personification of the rainbow, and also the messenger of the gods, who links them to the mortals.

The group aims to promote an inclusive working environment by offering networking opportunities, raising awareness across the firm, and partnering with clients on LGBT initiatives.

Mitra Janes, the head of diversity and inclusion at DLA Piper, said: “Like most law firms, we are on a journey and, like others, we still have some distance to travel but with strategic initiatives such as Iris we’re making great progress in raising awareness of LGBT issues across the firm and more broadly in society.”

The new group is being launched to coincide with LGBT history month, which aims to promote equality and diversity by raising awareness of the LGBT community.

This year, LGBT history month marks the 50th anniversary of the decriminalisation of male homosexuality. The month is being celebrated at events around the region. For example, Wakefield Council is flying a rainbow flag at Pontefract Castle in support of the month-long celebration.

Coun Ryan Case, Wakefield Council’s LGBT champion, said: “The flag is a symbol which celebrates diversity and increases the visibility of our LGBT community, their history, lives and their experiences.”

LGBT history month is being celebrated in February in the UK, but its work to educate out prejudice continues throughout the year.

This year the month is marking the partial decriminalisation of male homosexuality in England and Wales.

The Sexual Offences Act, passed on July 27 1967, has been described “as the first stepping stone across the Rubicon” and, although it only related to men it had an impact on everyone in the LGBT community, nationally and internationally.

For more information visit: www.lgbthistorymonth.org.uk