Update #13 – My appeal against Stonewall

My appeal against Stonewall will be heard at the Employment Appeal Tribunal in London this week, 14 -15 May 2024.

Four and a half years ago, I was a barrister at Garden Court Chambers. It was 2019 and I had decided that I could not ignore what was happening to women and to lesbians in particular who voiced opposition to Stonewall’s lobbying for gender self-ID, and I tweeted about it.

I also supported the founding of LGB Alliance, and on 22 October 2019, I tweeted about its launch.

I received hundreds if not thousands of abusive and threatening tweets, memes of guns, some of these messages were threats of sexual violence, some were racist. What they all had in common was that the people sending them were doing so, they said or inferred, in support of LGBT rights. I was told in often vicious terms that there is no LGB without the T – including by straight people.

At the same time a number of LGBT organisations also spoke out against me. It was terrifying, as I believe it was intended to be, a warning of what would happen if one steps out of line and dares to voice an opinion that differs from the lobbying goals of brand LGBT and queer. However, I continued to speak out and to tweet.

It was against this backdrop that on 31 October 2019, Stonewall emailed Garden Court via the heads of chambers and my clerks, accusing me of “making multiple transphobic statements online.”

The “statements” that Stonewall complained of were tweets that: a woman is an adult biological female and that this description is itself viewed by some as a hate crime; that women are at huge risk of violence from men, regardless of how the male in question performs femininity, yet we are eliminating all safe spaces for women and telling women that our fear of these men is irrational; that I put the rights of women before men who want to live as women; arguing against gender self-ID because of the danger to women & girls if any man is able to claim that he is legally female; that men should not be able to self-ID on to women’s wards within the NHS; that self-ID would make a mockery of women’s rights and safety; regarding the abhorrent practice of trans identified men meeting to strategise on how they can ‘overcome the cotton ceiling’ and coerce lesbians into sexual relations; and retweeting posts about Stonewall splitting in the wake of the founding of LGB Alliance.

Stonewall’s letter to Garden Court Chambers

Link to tweets that Stonewall complained of

My employment tribunal judgement

In its complaint to Garden Court, Stonewall concluded with these words: “However, for Garden Court Chambers to continue associating with a barrister who is actively campaigning for a reduction in trans rights and equality, while also specifically targeting members of our staff with transphobic abuse on a public platform, puts us in a difficult position with yourselves: the safety of our staff and community will always be Stonewalls first priority. I trust that you will do what is right and stand in solidarity with trans people.” The Employment Tribunal agreed at paragraph 368 of its judgment that it was at least “certainly one reading” of these words to consider them as a threat from Stonewall – if chambers didn’t get rid of me, Stonewall would end its relationship with Garden Court. The Tribunal also described Stonewall’s alternative explanation as “implausible”.

The Tribunal also concluded at paragraph 377 that, but for the Stonewall complaint, I would not have been discriminated against by Garden Court in its decision to uphold complaints against me: in fact, when Stonewall sent in its complaint, I had (although I did not know it at the time) already been investigated, and the outcome of that investigation was that no further action should be taken against me. But, upon receiving Stonewall’s complaint, Garden Court abandoned this conclusion, extended its investigation, and went on to conclude against me.

My case has always been that Stonewall’s action was unlawful under s.111 EqA 2010, because it constituted Stonewall “instructing, causing or inducing” Garden Court’s unlawful discrimination against me. But although the tribunal upheld my claims against Garden Court Chambers for those acts of discrimination, it did not uphold the claims against Stonewall under s.111.

We say this was an error of law: the employment tribunal made the finding (at para 377) that, but for Stonewall’s complaint, the discriminatory investigation outcome would never have been reached. We say therefore that the Tribunal ought to have concluded that Stonewall induced, caused or influenced Garden Court’s unlawful conduct, thus establishing unlawful conduct on the part of Stonewall by making its complaint. This is the heart of the appeal to be heard this week. The specific meaning of the words “induce”, “cause” or “influence” within s.111 have never been ruled on in court and this will be the first case that does so. We say that the words should be given their normal, every-day meaning, and that given the use of three words to define the prohibited conduct, it is apparent that parliament intended s.111 to apply to a broad category of actions – which include a threat to withdraw from a commercial relationship if an employer doesn’t terminate its relationship with a member of its own staff.

If my appeal succeeds, it will be a landmark decision with wider significance.

On a personal level, it will be vindication and I will have – with your generosity and support – obtained justice, for myself and for others that follow.

I hope it will end the bizarre racket that is Stonewall’s Diversity Champions Scheme, whereby companies, organisations and even government departments pay Stonewall to misrepresent the law to them, effectively encouraging them to discriminate against their own staff. In doing so, Stonewall and other LGBTQ+ organisations actively erode lesbian and gay rights by demanding those rights are tethered to trans rights – which are in many ways directly oppositional to lesbian and gay rights – and using incorrect statements of law to do so.

I hope my case will spark a serious and urgent debate about whether the Stonewall of today is a fit and proper charity. Regardless of the outcome of my appeal, my view on this question is clear: it is not.

I came out as a lesbian as a teenager in the late 1980s, in Cowley, Oxford, in the hostile climate created by s.28 of the Local Government Act 1988, which prohibited the promotion of homosexuality. There were no official resources for young lesbians at all, at school, in education and work, and no protection from discrimination. The Stonewall that emerged to fight s.28 and to fight for my rights, and the rights of LGB people is unrecognisable to me now. I believe it is now a dangerous, intolerant and undemocratic lobbying group. Its influence in British life and in our institutions and public places must be removed as a matter of urgency.

You can follow the hearing via @Tribunaltweets, who will be in attendance and who will be seeking the Court’s permission to live tweet.

Finally, and most importantly, I want to convey my deep, heartfelt gratitude and thanks to all of you who have supported, defended and encouraged me every step of the way. You got me through this. Thank you.

Allison Bailey