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Maya Forstater appeal win over transgender tweets 'a step backwards for equality'

A judge has said her views don't mean she, and others, can discriminate against trans people with "impunity".

2021-06-10

Words: Alastair James; pictures:

Maya Forstater, the woman who lost her job over tweets saying people can’t change their biological sex, has won an appeal against her original employment tribunal.

In 2019, Forstater, 47, lost her case when a judge ruled her remarks were “not worthy of respect in a democratic society”.

Forstater has a two-day appeal in April arguing that her opinion in there being only two sexes should be protected by the 2010 Equality Act.

In an appeal ruling issued today, (10 June), the Honourable Mr Justice Choudhury said her "gender-critical beliefs" were protected by the Equalities Act as they "did not seek to destroy the rights of trans persons".

Today's judgement found another tribunal should take place.

 

However, the judge also said that Forstater's beliefs do not allow her to misgender, harass or discriminate against transgender people with "impunity".

Forstater's former employer, the Centre for Global Development (CGD), described the ruling as  “disappointing” and “a step backwards for inclusivity and equality for all."

“Offensive to some”

Forstater, who describes herself as a “gender dissident”, was a researcher at CGD until 2019, when she posted a series of tweets criticising plans for people to be able to state their own gender. She believes trans women are not women and that biological sex is real and can’t be changed.

The Harry Potter author, JK Rowling, was one of Forstater’s most high profile supporters, tweeting in 2019: “#IStandWithMaya”.

In the judgement to the original employment tribunal in 2019, Judge James Taylor said Forstater’s belief was not “a philosophical belief protected by the Equality Act 2010.”

But today, the Honourable Mr Justice Choudhury said her belief does fall under the Equalities Act, while also recognising it was “offensive to some”. He's also said that it does not mean people can “‘misgender’ trans persons with impunity”. It goes on to say that people “will continue to be subject to the prohibitions on discrimination and harassment that apply to everyone else”.

“Landmark judgement”

In a video statement posted on YouTube earlier, Forstater said she has been “vindicated” by the “landmark judgement”.

“No one can be forced to profess a belief that they do not hold, like trans women are women and trans men are men and punished if they refuse” she adds.

She goes on to say, “I’m proud of the role I have played in clarifying the role and inspiring more people to speak up.” Forstater then explains she’s helped set up a new group called 'Sex Matters', which is designed to "question the narrative about being born in the wrong body." 

People who share Forstater's views, including trans-exclusionary radical feminists (TERFs), are celebrating the judgement as a victory.

“A step backwards for inclusivity and equality for all.”

In a statement Amanda Glassman, the executive Vice-president of CGD (Forstater’s former employer) described the judgement as “disappointing and surprising", believing the original judgement was right when it found that "offensive speech causes harm to trans people, and therefore could not be protected under the Equality Act.

"Today’s decision is a step backwards for inclusivity and equality for all. We’re currently considering the various paths forward with our lawyers.”

Lui Asquith, the Director of Legal and Policy at the trans-charity Mermaids, has said: "This is not the win anti-trans campaigners will suggest in the coming days. We as trans people are protected by equality law and this decision in the Maya Forstater case does not give anyone the right to unlawfully harass, intimidate, abuse or discriminate against us because we are trans.

"Maya Forstater has not been told her conduct was lawful. The Tribunal found - and this is key - that the misgendering of trans people is NOT part of Forstater's protected belief and that misgendering could harass and discriminate against trans people."

The actor David Paisley, also tweeted out clarification of the ruling, remind people that the judgement reaffirms that "trans people are protected from discrimination in law."

Nancy Kelley, the CEO of Stonewall has said: "As stated in the ruling, it is important to be clear that this judgement does not change the fact that trans people are protected against discrimination and harassment by the Equality Act. No philosophical belief gives someone the right to abuse, harm or discriminate against others, and this is very much upheld in today’s verdict.

"All trans people deserve to be treated with respect, dignity and humanity in their workplace. Over the past five years, there’s been a sharp rise in the number of trans people hiding their identity at work, while one in eight trans people (12 per cent) have been physically attacked in the workplace.

"It’s vital that all trans people are safe at work, in public and at home, and at Stonewall, we will keep fighting until every LGBTQ+ person is free to be themselves, wherever they are."