Maya Forstater, wins tribunal appeal over transgender tweets

 

A woman who lost her job after saying that people cannot change their biological sex has won an appeal against an employment tribunal.

Maya Forstater, 47, did not have her contract renewed after posting tweets on gender recognition.

She lost her original case at a tribunal in 2019, but a High Court judge ruled her “gender-critical” beliefs fell under the Equalities Act.

The appeal said the tribunal had erred in law and another should take place.

Ms Forstater, from St Albans in Hertfordshire, did not have her contract renewed at the think tank Center for Global Development (CGD) in March 2019, after posting a series of tweets questioning government plans – which were later scrapped – to let people declare their own gender.

She claimed she was discriminated against because of her beliefs, which include “that sex is immutable and not to be conflated with gender identity”.

In the initial tribunal employment judge James Tayler said that her approach was “not worthy of respect in a democratic society”.

He concluded that Ms Forstater was “absolutist” in her view and said she was not entitled to ignore the rights of a transgender person and the “enormous pain that can be caused by misgendering”.

But the Honourable Mr Justice Choudhury said her “gender-critical beliefs” did fall under the Equalities Act as they “did not seek to destroy the rights of trans persons”.

Ms Forstater said she was “delighted to have been vindicated” but CGD said the decision was a “step backwards for inclusivity and equality for all”.

In a video statement, Ms Forstater said: “I’m proud of the role I’ve played in clarifying the law and encouraging more people to speak up”.

Amanda Glassman, executive vice president of CGD, said: “The decision is disappointing and surprising because we believe Judge Tayler got it right when he found this type of offensive speech causes harm to trans people, and therefore could not be protected under the Equality Act.

Maya Forstater won her case because the Employment Appeal Tribunal concluded that her belief that biological sex is real, important and immutable met the legal test of a genuine and important philosophical position that is protected under the UK’s equality laws.

The test for such a protection was that her belief touched on an important part of human life, would be accepted by others and – this is the important bit – could not be shown to be a direct attempt to harm others.

The appeal panel found that while her words were offensive to some, they fell far short of the violent and oppressive views of “Nazism or totalitarian”. There was not even any evidence that she had harassed anyone at work.

Where does this leave employers? Equality and employment law require them to recognise and uphold the rights of all in the workplace.

Ms Forstater’s speech and beliefs are protected – but so are the rights of trans people. And if speech crosses the line from an honestly held belief to bullying, attacks and intimidation, then the scales very obviously tip in favour of protecting the victim.

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