“We wrote to Stonewall in March to let them know that we would not be renewing our membership, and this has now expired.”
Timeline of efforts to sabotage the EHRC’s work to protect everyone’s rights
The Equality and Human Rights Commission has published a Board Effectiveness Review which is illuminating about the tensions within the organisation as the chair and board try to navigate a transition from an activist organisation to a regulator.
In particular, the chair and board have been instrumental in effecting radical change by re-positioning the commission as a rigorous, objective regulator in the field of equality and human rights as opposed to its perceived historic position as an advocate for activist groups.Independent board review
The Equality and Human Rights Commission previously had a very close relationship with Stonewall, as a member of its Champions scheme, and with previous Stonewall chair David Isaac as chair of the Commission.
A group of staff leaked complaints to the press in February 2022, and submitted a dossier of 40 complaints in February 2023, leading to an investigation. News of the investigation and the contents of the complaints were leaked to Channel 4, which broadcast an “exposé” in May 2023.
Stonewall and associated organisations have tried three times (January 2022, June 2022, May 2023) to get the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI) to censure the Equality and Human Rights Commission for doing its job, and it is currently under review.
23rd April 2021
Karon Monaghan KC, representing the EHRC, argues that the original tribunal the employment judge “adopted the wrong approach when determining whether the Claimant’s [‘gender critical’] belief fell within the scope of s.10 of the Equality Act”.
30th April 2021
1st May 2021
Whittle was influential trans rights lawyer campaigner at the time of the GRA. White ia a current trans rights lawyer and campaigner.
Whittle says “EHRC now run by Government appointees who have zilch knowledge of trans lives”.
White says EHRC are not “correct in law”
18th May 2021
“… We are frustrated that you then chose to intervene in a case to say that so-called ‘gender critical’ beliefs should be a protected philosophical belief.
“It was a kick in the teeth to trans people to see the EHRC appear to put their organisational weight behind a movement that has only contributed to rising hate for trans people in communities, creating a policy environment where it is harder for trans people to access their rights. That the EHRC chose to add their weight to this intervention has sent a deeply damaging message to trans people about their validity and worth. This intervention has lost the trust of trans people and LGBTQ+ people more broadly.”
28th May 2021
Kishwer Falkner says: “Defending the right to believe that sex is immutable in no way impacts on our commitment to uphold the rights of trans people.”
10th June 2021
26th January 2022
EHRC publishes cautious position on reform of the Gender Recognition Act 2004 in Scotland
It raises concerns about the potential consequences of self ID and says:
“We consider that more detailed consideration is needed before any change is made to the provisions in the Act. The potential consequences include those relating to the collection and use of data, participation and drug testing in competitive sport, measures to address barriers facing women, and practices within the criminal justice system, inter alia.”
26th January 2022
EHRC publishes cautious position on proposed legislation banning conversion therapy
It recommends that legislation should initially focus on banning conversion therapy attempting to change a person’s sexual orientation and that legislation to ban conversion therapy attempting to change a person to or from being transgender should follow “once more detailed and evidence-based proposals are available which can be properly scrutinised”.
26th January 2022
Stephen Whittle reports “many EHRC staff” feel betrayed
Whittle says staff feel betrayed by the letter and very unhappy with forthcoming single sex services guidance.
26th January 2022
It says the two statements “are extremely damaging and cannot be supported in any circumstances” and “EHRC can no longer call itself a true human rights organisation.”
26th January 2022
Liberty calls for the EHRC’s status as an NHRI to be reviewed
“For the EHRC to make such a damaging intervention calls in to question whether it is serving its purpose and Liberty supports the calls for the EHRC’s status as a national human rights institution (NHRI) to be reviewed.”
26th January 2022
28th January 2022
Stephen Whittle say staff angry and depressed
“Would leave if they could”
2nd February 2022
2nd February 2022
Colin Macfarlane says EHRC has lost its way
2nd February 2022
Stephen Whittle comments on “anti-trans rot amidst EHRC” commissioners
Calls for the entire board to be replaced
4th February 2022
VICE reports that staff are leaving the EHRC due to ‘transphobia’
“I was seeing our upcoming publications and guidance pushing for trans rights being changed – or completely scrapped and shelved permanently – meanwhile the Board was building links to anti-trans groups. It was awful.”
10th February 2022
Signatories include the Good Law Project, Liberty, Gendered Intelligence, TransActual, Mermaids, Trans in the City, GIRES, Sparkle, Trans Safety Network, LGBT Consortium, LGBT Foundation, Equality Network, LGBT Youth Scotland, Galop, Feminist Gender Equality Network, Steph’s Place UK, and the Outside Project.
“We believe that recent statements made by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), Great Britain’s NHRI, indicate that they can no longer be considered compliant with the Paris Principles, and are no longer fit for purpose as a National Human Rights Institution.”
11th February 2022
Former legal director agrees with Stonewall
Grey Collier says EHRC doesn’t meet standard for EHRC accreditation
10th February 2022
Colin Macfarlane of Stonewall says EHRC has gone rogue
11th February 2022
Another former legal director attacks EHRC’s legal analysis
She calls it a “profound and wilful misinterpretation of the law”
16th Febuary 2022
On Board interviewed all ten Non-Executive Commissioners (including the Chairwoman) and all members of the Senior Leadership Team (including the Chief Executive).
1st April 2022
EHRC says: “We are pleased that the Sub-Committee on Accreditation assessed evidence of our independence and effectiveness and upheld our position, declining a special review of our work.
“As we launch our new strategy, we are reaching out to organisations that have been critical of the EHRC, encouraging them to put aside past disagreements and to work with us and other like-minded organisations to protect everyone and to achieve a fairer society for all.”
4th April 2022
The guidance confirms that it is lawful and legitimate to provide female-only spaces and therefore to exclude men who identify as women from them.
5th April 2022
“This new EHRC guidance is appalling and harmful. It encourages bigotry and discrimination. Its ‘examples’ include invitations to organisations to blanket ban trans women from exercise classes and women’s toilets on a ‘biological’ basis.” Trans Legal Project
17th May 2022
30th May 2022
Translucent submits a 61-page complaint to GANHRI
Translucent (previously called “Steph’s Place” and a signatory of the Stonewall complaint to GANHRI) makes a new complaint including accusations of “collusion with ‘anti-trans’ groups and individuals”.
1st June 2022
Stonewall resubmits evidence to GANHRI
Together with the Good Law Project and 30 other civil-society organisations, Stonewall’s lawyers send a letter and submissions to GANHRI, calling for the EHRC to lose its A status. It complains that EHRC Chair Kishwer Falkner “has spoken in support of anti-trans ‘gender critical’ beliefs and appears to have liaised disproportionately with ‘gender critical’ groups in her capacity as Chair” (citing the VICE article of 2nd February 2022). It complains that “the EHRC is now, like the government, substantively out of step with mainstream civil-society organisations in its stance on equality and human rights” and again raises the EHRC’s position on conversion therapy, and its new single-sex services guidance.
1st July 2022
“Chairwoman and the Board have been instrumental in effecting radical change by re-positioning the Commission as a rigorous, objective regulator in the field of equality and human rights as opposed to its perceived historic position as an advocate for activist groups.”
2nd September 2022
Masked representatives of the anonymous group Pissed Off Trannies (POT) ceremonially deliver the urine to the EHRC offices in Westminster, London and stage what they described as a “piss-in”, leaving over 60 bottles of urine outside the offices of the Equality and Human Rights Commission and pouring urine over the entrance. One of the protesters pours urine over himself.
14th October 2022
GANHRI re-accredits EHRC as an ‘A status’ organisation
This follows a routine assessment. The assessment report includes recommendations that the EHRC:
• widens its human rights protection mandate
continues to address human rights issues across all relevant areas
• cooperates with civil society organisations
ensures pluralism and diversity in its board membership
• advocates for formalising the selection and appointment process of our Commissioners
• advocates for amendments regarding the provisions for dismissal of Commissioners
• advocates for greater financial autonomy from central government
21 November 2022
BBC women’s hour story on “women in quizing”
Women’s Hour says it is the first all women final, although in practice in includes a male competitor, Emma Laslett.
23 November 2022
The Board welcomed and noted the paper, including the legal and policy issues that arise from the drafting of the Equality Act 2010 in relation to the concepts of sex, gender, and gender reassignment and interaction with the GRA and whether and how the EHRC can seek to clarify the law, convene debate on the balance of rights, and support decision-making.
This appears to be the board meeting in which response to BBC Women’s Hour calling final with Emma Haslett “all-women” Baroness Falkner was been accused of calling trans-identified male, Emma Laslett, a ‘bloke in lipstick’ (she has said in interviews she was reporting what was being said about Laslett).
12th January 2023
Minister for Women and Equalities meets with Chair of the EHRC
Dscussed “the increasing contestation of how the term sex in understood in law and in practice. Recent cases in both the English and Scottish Courts, such as Fair Play for Women Ltd. v UK Statistics Authority  EWHC 940 and For Women Scotland Ltd  CSOH 90, have raised legitimate questions about the definition of sex in the Equality Act 2010. ” (referred to in Letter on 21st Feb)
16th December 2022
The UN Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity writes to the Scottish Government claiming that “legal recognition of gender identity” via self-identification is an “international human rights imperative”.
18th January 2023
The Board discussed the additional legal advice relating to the definition of sex in the Equality Act 2010. The Board agreed that the Commission should advise the Government on the definition of sex in the Equality Act, subject to a further special Board meeting to be held before 30 March, to discuss the wider implications, communications and stakeholder considerations, and to take note of their consultation on this matter with the statutory Scotland and Wales Committees.
21st February 2023
Requests considered advice from the EHRC on the benefits or otherwise of an amendment to the 2010 Act on the current definition of ‘sex’, along with any connected or consequential enactments, bearing in mind the advantages and disadvantages that such a change might entail for affected groups.
?? February 2023
Dossier of complaints produced by staff
Gavin Mansfield KC instructed to investigate
1 March 2023
Extraordinary Board Meeting
The Chairwoman proposed that she write to the Chair of the Scotland and Wales Committee ssetting out why the Board was not able to accept their advice and why the Board had reached the conclusions it had. Commissioners agreed this approach.
The Board then discussed the recommended response from the Commission to the 21 February 2023 letter from the Minister for Women and Equalities. A small group of Commissioners considered that the draft letter was an acceptable starting point, subject to some amendments. However, following discussion, a majority of Commissioners favoured a substantially revised letter to be agreed at the next Board meeting.
30th March 2023
3rd April 2023
EHRC Chair Kishwer Falkner writes to the Minister for Women and Equalities on clarifying the Equality Act
“A change to the Equality Act 2010, so that the protected characteristic of ‘sex’ means biological sex, could bring clarity in a number of areas, but potential ambiguity in others.
“Our response to the Minister’s request for advice suggests that the UK Government carefully identify and consider the potential implications of this change.
“Should they wish to pursue work in this area, we recommend detailed policy and legal analysis be undertaken, in compliance with the Public Sector Equality Duty and with due regard to any possible disadvantages for trans men and trans women.”
9th May 2023
Stonewall publishes a third letter to GANHRI together with 35 organisations
“This is not an institution that has listened to civil society, to the recommendations of the Subcommittee on Accreditation or to its own national committees. It is not demonstrating a commitment to the human rights of all persons, nor is it functioning in a pluralistic, independent and effective manner as mandated under the Paris Principles. It is a failed institution, it is harming the trans community in Great Britain, and it is undermining the status of independent human rights institutions and systems.
The letter is signed on behalf of Claire’s Trans Talks, Equality Network, Feminist Gender Equality Network, Gendered Intelligence, GIRES (Gender Identity Research and Education Society), Global Butterflies, Hidayah LGBT, Intercom Trust, Kite Trust, LGBT Consortium, LGBT Foundation, Live Through This, London Friend, Mermaids, Ozanne Foundation, Proud Trust, Sparkle – The National Transgender Charity, Spectra, Star Support LGBTIQ+, Translucent, Stonewall, The Outside Project, Trans Activism UK, Trans Actual, Trans in the City, Trans Media Watch, Trans Safety Network, and Yorkshire Mesmac.
23rd May 2023
Channel 4 reveals that investigation is underway following complaints of “bullying, harassment and discrimination – along with a wave of resignations.” Including accusation of calling Emma Laslett a “man in lipstick” during board meeting on November 23rd.
25th May 2023
“Staff are the real experts in Equalities and Human rights… whereas the commissioners clearly do not understand”
26th April 2023
This investigation has been paused. This is while we seek legal advice on the impact of leaked confidential information. We must ensure its integrity and that it is fair to all parties concerned.
Statement from Kishwer Falkner
24th October 2023
The Minister for Women and Equalities commissioned an independent legal expert to review the handling of complaints against the EHRC’s Chairwoman, Baroness Kishwer Falkner. The EHRC co-operated fully with the review and its Board has now considered guidance which has flowed from it.
In the light of the conclusions and guidance shared with the Interim Deputy Chair and Board as a result of the review, the Interim Deputy Chair, supported by the Board, has decided that the investigation into the Chairwoman should now close.
16th November 2023
Melanie Field poses with Nancy Kelley, Stephen Whittle and Robin White at Conference held by Steph Richard’s Translucent Organisation.
Nancy Kelley says “we all agree” on the Equality Act