News and Events

Philosophical Belief Discrimination

  • Posted

Is a belief that there are two biological sexes in humans, and that it is not possible for a human being to change sex, a ‘philosophical belief’ within the meaning of section 10 of the Equality Act 2010?

No, held Employment Judge Tayler in Forstater v CGD Europe & ors, in a judgment which, if upheld on appeal, has far-reaching implications for freedom of speech.

Ms Forstater worked for CGD. In 2018, she became engaged in her personal capacity in the debate about proposed reforms to the Gender Recognition Act. Complaints were raised with CGD that some of her tweets were “transphobic.” Ms Forstater’s contract was not renewed, and she complained of discrimination on grounds of her belief.

At a preliminary hearing, the tribunal found that the belief was genuinely held; it was a belief, not merely an opinion based on the present state of information; and was a belief as to a weighty and substantial aspect of human life and behaviour. Reminding himself that the threshold of coherence required was “modest,” the judge held that the belief attained the necessary level of cogency and cohesion. But he held that it necessarily involved “misgendering” and was therefore incompatible with human dignity and the fundamental rights of others. Accordingly it could not be a protected belief under the Equality Act 2010.

Thanks to Naomi Cunningham of Outer Temple Chambers for preparing this case summary.