Fresh row for Law Society as members argue over same-sex marriage stance

The Law Society is facing a fresh row over its support for same-sex marriage as members agitate for an extraordinary general meeting to censure the organisation for publicly backing a change in the law.

The society, which represents the state's 30,000 solicitors, has come under fire over a joint statement it issued on August 19 with the NSW Bar Association and the state division of the Australian Medical Association supporting a change to the Marriage Act.

Members including Sydney law firm partner Robin Speed of tax advisory firm Speed & Stracey have circulated a requisition for an extraordinary general meeting to vote on a series of resolutions, including that the Law Society be "censured" for "incorrectly holding out that all solicitors in NSW had united in supporting marriage equality laws".

NSW Law Society president Pauline Wright has come under fire over the organisation's public support for same-sex marriage.

NSW Law Society president Pauline Wright has come under fire over the organisation's public support for same-sex marriage.

Mr Speed, the founder of the Rule of Law Institute, had previously written to Law Society president Pauline Wright on August 22 calling for her to "immediately resign" over the issue.

Bar Association president Arthur Moses, SC, has not faced similar public criticism from within his own ranks for adopting the same policy.

However, NSW and Victorian barrister Evangeline Arulrajah wrote in an opinion piece for the Herald on Friday that it was "inappropriate" for the Bar Association and all professional associations "to make statements for or against same-sex marriage if they are not a religious organisation or an LGBTI advocacy group".

"The NSW Bar Association also did not consult its members," Ms Arulrajah said.

Mr Speed issued a deadline of September 8 for the Law Society to "disassociate itself" from the joint statement and suggested legal action was an option of last resort.

The Law Society has not backed down. Its governing body, the 22-member law council, resolved last week to reinforce public statements by Ms Wright that the organisation "respects the divergent and deeply held views of individual members on same-sex marriage".

The council is empowered to vote on policies that will become the official views of the Law Society without consulting each of its members.

Fairfax Media contacted Mr Speed about the petition, including whether it had reached the required 250 signatures to trigger an extraordinary general meeting, but did not receive a response.

The requisition was also posted on the Law Society's Facebook page by an apparent member of the society, Wyong resident Phillip Thompson, who called on "all lawyers who value civil liberties and impartial process" to sign the document.

Fairfax Media also contacted Mr Thompson for comment.

Ms Wright said no requisition for an EGM has been received by the society as of Thursday but it would "conform with appropriate governance requirements".

"Those who seek to drive this requisition are entitled to do so," Ms Wright said.

"However on the responses received subsequent to the council's resolution with regard to same-sex marriage, their views are out of step with the vast majority of the solicitors in NSW."

The requisition also calls for a vote on establishing a committee of three solicitors "chosen by the requisitioners" to "inform and advise the council as to the legislative and regulatory safeguards which should be put in place to respect aspirations to equality and to protect and guarantee freedom of speech, conscience, thought, religion, association, assembly, expression and other essential freedoms and rights".

The committee would also "make recommendations to the council as to the action it should take with a view to ensuring that such safeguards are put in place in connection with existing or proposed changes to marriage laws".

This story Fresh row for Law Society as members argue over same-sex marriage stance first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.