Sacked woman stands by view on transgender issues, employment appeals panel told

Josh Payne, PA
·4-min read

A woman who lost her job after claiming people cannot change their biological sex insists her views are a “material reality”, an employment appeal tribunal has heard.

Maya Forstater’s contract was not renewed in March 2019 after she posted tweets opposing government proposals to reform the Gender Recognition Act to allow people to identify as the opposite sex.

She reiterated her views that biological sex is “real, important, immutable, and not to be conflated with gender identity” through her QC on Tuesday.

Ms Forstater said she was “concerned” children were being “encouraged” that it is possible to “change sex or simply to be a member of the opposite sex… at an early age”.

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Harry Potter author JK Rowling previously came out in support of the claimant, tweeting: “Live your best life in peace and security.

“But force women out of their jobs for stating that sex is real?”

Ms Forstater, who worked as a tax expert at the Centre for Global Development (CGD), an international think tank that campaigns against poverty and inequality, took her case to an employment tribunal on the grounds that her dismissal constituted discrimination against her beliefs.

But employment judge James Tayler previously dismissed her claim, saying her views are “absolutist in her view of sex”.

Ben Cooper QC, representing Ms Forstater at the virtual employment appeal tribunal, said her views are “based on… fundamental scientific facts”.

Mr Cooper said she claims: “Ignoring them or pretending they are not true is detrimental to an honest, just and fair society, particularly upholding the rights of women.

“These beliefs do not involve any moral judgment and… do not deny the rights or status of trans people or their protection from discrimination.

“I’m concerned that children and young people are being encouraged to make these decisions at an early age and are being led to believe it is possible to change sex or simply to be a member of the opposite sex.”

Mr Cooper added: “This is not a competition about who is treated worse or who is more offended by the other’s beliefs.

“We say, applying the correct test, there can be no doubt that the claimant’s beliefs do meet the relevant threshold to be worthy of respect in a democratic society.

“She accepts that (trans people) should be protected from discrimination.”

Mr Cooper said Ms Forstater “will use a person’s preferred pronouns” in most social situations but “where it is relevant, she believes it is important to be able to refer to someone’s biological sex”.

The lawyer continued: “The claimant’s belief is that being transgender is a different category of thing from sex.

“It is inherent in that belief that statements such as ‘woman means adult human female’ or ‘trans women are male’ are, for her, statements of neutral fact.”

Judge Tayler ruled against Ms Forstater in a 26-page judgment in 2019, in which he said her views did “not have the protected characteristic of philosophical belief”.

He concluded Ms Forstater was not entitled to ignore the legal rights of a transgender person and the “enormous pain that can be caused by misgendering a person”.

The dispute was seen as a test case on whether a “gender critical” view, a belief that there are only two biological sexes, is a protected “philosophical belief” under the 2010 Equality Act.

Ms Forstater had argued “framing the question of transgender inclusion as an argument that male people should be allowed into women’s spaces discounts women’s rights to privacy and is fundamentally illiberal (it is like forcing Jewish people to eat pork)”.

In a statement released ahead of the appeal tribunal’s judgment, Amanda Glassman, the chief executive officer of CGD Europe and executive vice president of CGD, said: “Our view is that Judge Tayler was correct when he ruled that the claimant’s beliefs denied trans persons their legal rights while also causing them personal pain.

“We are hopeful that the Employment Appeal Tribunal will uphold the original ruling and look forward to moving on to the next case.”

The employment appeal tribunal, expected to last two days, continues.