LGBT+ Lawyers and Allies Network: equality for all
Freshfields founded and continues to promote the LGBT+ Lawyers and Allies Network (LLAN), an LGBT+ not-for-profit organisation that aims to promote LGBT+ equality in Japan, specifically focusing on same-sex marriage.
LLAN was founded in 2015 to advocate for LGBT+ rights in Japan. LLAN has since grown to become one of the most active non-profit organisations in Japan. To date, LLAN has organised around 100 events, including the Annual Equality Gala, which, as one of the biggest legal and LGBT+ events, brings together inspiring international guests.
Among the many LLAN events and projects initiated and led by Freshfields staff (including support from Freshfields Tokyo current and former Office Managing Partners Takeshi Nakao, Ed Cole, Asia Managing Partner Georgia Dawson and others in Hong Kong), the pro bono legal support provided to draft the LLAN Foreign Law Report on Marriage Equality stands out. The report, covering 11 jurisdictions where marriage equality prevailed, was drafted over a year by 52 lawyers from 10 law firms, including 12 lawyers from four Freshfields offices.
Freshfields Counsel Alexander Dmitrenko organised meetings to present the Report to the Japanese Federation of Bar Associations (JFBA), which was considering a discrimination claim over denial of marriage rights. In August 2019, relying heavily on the report, the JFBA declared that denial of marriage equality constituted a serious violation of the Japanese Constitution and recommended the Japanese Government extend marriage rights to same-sex couples.
Alexander also led the team that drafted the Viewpoint on Marriage Equality, which makes the business case for equality in marriage, and launched it with five Chambers of Commerce in Japan at the annual LLAN Equality Gala in 2018. Freshfields took a leading role, encouraging more than 80 additional endorsers, with more in the pipeline.
The LLAN (and Freshfields’ wider LGBT+ initiatives) continue to gather momentum. LLAN now coordinates Asia-wide video conferences with high-profile guests like actor, author, and activist George Takei (who spoke about the importance of allies) and renowned gay rights advocate Evan Wolfson (who spoke about moving towards equal marriage in Asia).
The fourth annual LLAN Equality Gala in September 2019 brought together parliamentarians from the Philippines, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, New Zealand and the UK to share experiences campaigning for improved equality laws.