A woman who lost her job after tweeting that men cannot change their biological sex has won her appeal against an employment tribunal.
Business and international development researcher Maya Forstater did not have her contract renewed with her employer in 2019 after she posted a series of tweets questioning government proposals to reform the Gender Recognition Act to allow people to self-identify as another sex.
In one tweet, she wrote: “I don’t think being a woman/female is a matter of identity or womanly feelings. 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.”
In another controversial post, she argued that a white person’s feeling they are black is the same as a man’s belief that he is female.
But following backlash over the tweets, Ms Forstater’s contract as visiting fellow at the Centre for Global Development (CGD), a think-tank based in London and Washington that campaigns against poverty, was not renewed.
She had lost an earlier employment tribunal in December 2019 after her opinions on sex were ruled “absolutist” and “not worthy of respect in a democratic society”.
But on Thursday, a High Court judge found in favour of Ms Forstater, acknowledging that while her views “may well be profoundly offensive and even distressing”, they “must be tolerated in a pluralist society”.
The appeal found the original tribunal had “erred in law” but stressed the judgement did not mean that “those with gender-critical beliefs can ‘misgender’ trans persons with impunity.”
The Honourable Mr Justice Choudhury said Ms Forstater’s “gender-critical beliefs” did fall under the Equalities Act as they “did not seek to destroy the rights of trans persons”.
He added that the judgement did not mean “that employers and service providers will not be able to provide a safe environment for trans persons”.
Ms Forstater said she was ”delighted to have been vindicated” but her former employer CGD described the tribunal’s decision as a “step backwards for inclusivity and equality for all”.
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.”
During the earlier tribunal, the judge had decided Ms Forstater’s view was “incompatible with human dignity and fundamental rights of others”.
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.”
The author J K Rowling infamously threw her support behind Ms Forstater in 2019, just after she had lost the first employment tribunal, sending a tweet with the hashtag #IStandWithMaya.
Rowling received heavy backlash for her tweet.