Researcher who lost job for tweeting ‘men cannot change into women’ loses employment tribunal

Judgment ‘removes women’s rights and the right to freedom of belief and speech,’ says sacked tax expert Maya Forstater

Matt Drake
Thursday 19 December 2019 14:00
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JK Rowling supports researcher who lost job and employment tribunal for tweeting ‘men cannot change into women’

A researcher who lost her job after tweeting that men cannot change their biological sex has lost an employment tribunal after her opinions were ruled “absolutist”.

The Central London Employment Tribunal upheld the firing of tax expert Maya Forstater, 45, over a series of tweets questioning government plans to allow people to self-identify as another gender.

Ms Forstater was a visiting fellow at the Centre for Global Development (CGD), which is a think-tank based in London and Washington that campaigns against poverty.

She was accused of using “offensive and exclusionary” language on Twitter for saying “men cannot change into women”. Her legal dispute against her former employer was seen as a test on whether a “gender-critical” view – that there are only two biological sexes – was a protected philosophical belief under the 2010 Equality Act.

Judge James Tayler decided that Ms Forstater’s view was “incompatible with human dignity and fundamental rights of others”. If Ms Forstater had won the case it would have legally prevented employers from dismissing staff for expressing their view on LGBT+ rights, her lawyers said.

Judge Tayler said the tax expert was not entitled to ignore the legal rights of transgender people and the “enormous pain that can be caused by misgendering a person”.

He concluded: “If a person has transitioned from male to female and has a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC), that person is legally a woman. That is not something Ms Forstater is entitled to ignore. Ms Forstater’s position is that even if a trans woman has a GRC, she cannot honestly describe herself as a woman. That belief is not worthy of respect in a democratic society.

“Even paying due regard to the qualified right to freedom of expression, people cannot expect to be protected if their core belief involves violating others’ dignity and creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating, or offensive environment for them.”

In a statement on the ruling, Ms Forstater said: “I struggle to express the shock and disbelief I feel at reading this judgment, which I think will be shared by the vast majority of people who are familiar with my case.

“This judgment removes women’s rights and the right to freedom of belief and speech. It gives judicial licence for women and men who speak up for objective truth and clear debate to be subject to aggression, bullying, no-platforming and economic punishment."

At the end of giving evidence during the tribunal, Ms Forstater said gender identity did not override a person's sex. She said: “I accept everybody’s gender identity, I just do not believe it overrides their sex. I refuse to believe human beings can change their sex.”

Ms Forstater added that she would consider the judgement closely with her legal team to decide what could be done to challenge it.

Peter Daly of Slater and Gordon, who represented Ms Forstater, said: “The significance of this judgment should not be downplayed.

“Had our client been successful, she would have established in law protection for people – on any side of this debate – to express their beliefs without fear of being discriminated against.”

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