The head of Britain’s equalities watchdog has warned those celebrating the Maya Forstater ruling that it “is not a license” for transphobia.
A high-profile legal case brought by tax researcher Maya Forstater resulted in judge ruling that “gender critical” views are protected under UK equalities law on Thursday (10 June).
Speaking on BBC Radio 4 the following day, the chair of the government’s Equalities and Human Rights Commission, Baroness Kishwer Falkner, discussed the implications of the controversial ruling.
“As yesterday’s judgement made clear, this is not a victory to treat trans people any differently as rights-holding people from anyone else, and people must be clear about that,” she said.
“People who celebrate this ruling for bringing clarity must be clear that this is not license to behave badly.”
Baroness Falkner’s equality commission intervened in Forstater’s case to support her appeal, arguing that the judge who had deemed her views “not worthy of respect in a democratic society“ incorrectly interpreted the law that should have protected her right to freedom of belief and speech.
Falkner herself has stated that cis women should be free to express so-called gender critical views without being “abused”, and that many people would consider these views to be “an entirely reasonable belief”.
“There is too much self censorship going on – certainly in terms of gender critical theory. And what happens to women who raise that does seem to be an effect on them of abuse and stigmatisation,” she said to The Times in May,
Falkner told the BBC on Thursday that the equality commission supports the tribunal’s judgement, yet highlighted the need to respect trans people’s rights.
“Freedom of speech, freedom of belief, these are protected characteristics. And on the whole, we all have to rub up against each other,” she said. “We [don’t] have the right not to be offended, but trans people’s rights are absolutely protected and employers must ensure they do so.
“I would say to any trans person who feels their rights are not being upheld to escalate upwards as soon as they experience those feelings. They face harassment and bullying from school onwards, and it’s equally important as a society that we respect their rights.”
She echoed Mr Justice Choudhury, who stated in his ruling that “[Maya Forstater], like everyone else, will continue to be subject to the prohibitions on discrimination and harassment that apply to everyone else”.
Just because Forstater’s views now fall under the protected characteristic of “religion or belief” does not mean that people with “gender critical” views are free to misgender, deadname or otherwise harass trans people.