Holding to the belief that biology determines whether a person is a man or a woman is protected under the Equality Act, the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has said.
The EHRC made the statement at an employment appeal tribunal last week, in evidence submitted at a case brought by Maya Forstater.
Forstater is appealing an earlier ruling that she had not been unfairly treated by her employer when she lost her job for criticising trans ideology, as the judge said ‘gender critical’ beliefs were not legally protected.
The EHRC told the tribunal: “We believe it is important that our courts and tribunals continue to robustly protect freedom of religion or belief.
“This can include highly contested beliefs and is demonstrated by the consistent domestic and European Court of Human Rights case law acknowledging the right to protection of religious views that homosexuality is contrary to God’s will and sinful.”
The equality watchdog continued: “We think that a ‘gender critical’ belief that ‘trans women are men and trans men are women’ is a philosophical belief which is protected under the Equality Act religion or belief protections.”
it is important that our courts and tribunals continue to robustly protect freedom of religion or belief EHRC
Commenting on the previous verdict, the EHRC expressed concern that it “could leave people unprotected from discrimination and harassment” and restrict “freedom of speech on debates concerning transgender rights, Gender Recognition Act reform and definitions of ‘woman’ and ‘man’”.
Equality Act 2010
During the appeal hearing, Ben Cooper QC said that ignoring biological fact “is detrimental to an honest, just and fair society, particularly upholding the rights of women”.
Mr Cooper added that biological sex is “real, important, immutable, and not to be conflated with gender identity”, and changing one’s appearance “does not change a person’s sex”.
Forstater’s legal team described the original tribunal’s approach to her case as “Orwellian”, saying it was “reminiscent of the Ministry of Truth’s newspeak: words themselves are to have their ‘undesirable meanings purged out of them’ along with the associated ideas”.
Forstater hopes the tribunal will recognise her views as a philosophical belief under the Equality Act 2010.