Ex MSP says transgender tribunal verdict a vindication for 'thousands of women who have been cancelled for expressing an opinion'
A woman who lost her job with a think tank after saying sex cannot be changed has won an appeal against an employment tribunal.
The result was described as a “landmark judgement” by the SNP’s Joanna Cherry.
The former SNP MSP Joan McAlpine said it was vindication for the “thousands of women who have been cancelled for expressing an opinion, however respectfully.”
In 2018, Maya Forstater posted a number of tweets on sex and gender, including her opposition to planned reforms of the Gender Recognition Act (GRA) to allow trans people to self-identify and legally transition from the gender assigned to them at birth without a medical diagnosis.
“I don’t think being a woman/female is a matter of identity or womanly feelings,” she said in one post.
“What I am so surprised at is that smart people who I admire ... are tying themselves in knots to avoid saying the truth that men cannot change into women,” she added.
Her contract as a tax expert with the think tank Centre for Global Development (CGD), was not renewed in 2019 after a number of her colleagues complained.
She then took her employer to an employment tribunal, arguing that her beliefs should be legally protected.
However, employment judge James Tayler dismissed her case in December 2019, saying she was “absolutist in her view of sex” and it was “not worthy of respect in a democractic society”.
On Thursday, High Court judge Mr Justice Chowdhury said the original tribunal had "erred in law".
He said that while some may find Forstater’s comments “profoundly offensive and even distressing" they "must be tolerated in a pluralist society".
However, the judge did add in the ruling that: "This judgment does not mean that those with gender-critical beliefs can 'mis-gender' trans persons with impunity.
"The claimant, like everyone else, will continue to be subject to the prohibitions on discrimination and harassment that apply to everyone else."
He admitted that "some trans persons will be disappointed by this judgment", adding that he did "not agree" that it would "create a 'two-tier' system between natal (cisgender - when your gender identity matches the one you were assigned at birth) women and trans women, with some trans women fearing that it will give licence to people seeking to harass them".
After the verdict was handed down on Friday morning, Forstater said: "I am delighted to have been vindicated. I lost my job simply for expressing a view that is true and important, and held by the great majority of people in this country: sex matters.
"Being a woman is a material reality. It is not a costume or a feeling. Institutions that pretend sex doesn't matter become hostile places for women, in particular.
"After this judgment, employers and service-providers that ignore sex and silence women who object, need to consider whether they are acting unlawfully, and the substantial legal risks they face if they do not change their approach."
Joanna Cherry tweeted: “This landmark judgment means that #gendercritical women & men will have a potential remedy under the #EqualityAct if they are discriminated against, harassed or victimised on account of their beliefs by employers, service providers & membership organisations.”
The former SNP MSP Joan McAlpine tweeted: “Enormously significant judgement for feminism and free speech today in @MForstater case. Women who believe sex is real and question gender identity beliefs are protected under the Equality Act. Well done everybody who supported #istandwithmaya.
She added: “As someone who has been maligned and misrepresented simply for stating sex is real, I am enormously relieved by this judgement not just for @MForstater but for thousands of women who have been cancelled for expressing an opinion, however respectfully.
“It’s now for those people in positions of power to think carefully about their failure to stand up to intolerance - or why they stood by when women were attacked and misrepresented by online mobs - some, sadly, whipped up by publicly funded organisations and public figures
“My activity in this area was through the work of my parliamentary committee examining how sex was defined in the census - I also FACILITATED DEBATE by holding meetings in parliament to discuss sex and gender - for this I was subject to unacceptable abuse & false accusations”.
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.
"Today's decision is a step backwards for inclusivity and equality for all. We're currently considering the various paths forward with our lawyers."