A U.K. woman who lost her job after tweeting that people cannot change their biological sex has won an appeal against an employment tribunal.
In September 2018, Maya Forstater, a British tax expert, shared a series of messages on her personal Twitter account questioning the government’s plans to reform the Gender Recognition Act to allow people declare their own gender.
Forstater had been working for the think tank Centre for Global Development (CGD) since 2015, but CGD refused to renew her contract in early 2019 after a number of her colleagues complained that her comments were “transphobic” and made them feel “uncomfortable.”
In response, Forstater filed a claim against her employer for direct discrimination against her beliefs. She argued that her tweets should be protected under the 2010 Equality Act.
During a preliminary tribunal employment hearing in December 2019, Judge James Tayler ruled that Forstater’s approach was “not worthy of respect in a democratic society” and was “incompatible with human dignity and fundamental rights of others.”
Forstater appealed the tribunal’s ruling and sought to show that her views should in fact have legal protection, arguing that the implications of the tribunal’s ruling against her were “profound” and that, if upheld, those expressing similar views would not be legally protected.
On June 10, the president of the Employment Appeal Tribunal, Justice Choudhury, overturned the previous tribunal ruling, stating that the tribunal had “erred in its application” of the law.
Choudhury clarified that Forstater’s gender-critical beliefs are widely shared and did not “seek to destroy the rights of trans persons.”
In a video statement following Choudhury’s judgment, Forstater said: “I’m proud of the role I’ve played in clarifying the law and encouraging more people to speak up.”
“This … ruling was an important one for freedom of speech and freedom of belief,” the Christian Legal Centre’s Roger Kiska said. “The ruling also is a positive reminder that culture does not always dictate to law, and that in the United Kingdom we still respect fundamental freedoms.
“One of the arguments often used by transgender activists is that others must submit to their beliefs so as not to offend their dignity or offend their rights,” he continued. “This view, however, is myopic. Tolerance, it should be remembered, is a two-way street. Demanding that others acquiesce to a belief system about gender that does not equate with their own also offends the dignity and rights of others. The purpose of the law is not to force consensus about contentious moral issues. The purpose of the law is to allow people the freedom to make their own decisions on these questions and to abide by their own consciences.”
Photo: Barney Cokeliss /PA Wire