The Party in England Responds to the Change in the Party’s Definition of Transphobia

No regular visitor to LDV can have missed the growing debate over trans gender issues. Here we publish the response from the English Party to recent events in full. Given the sensitivity of the subject we will be pre-moderating all comments in line with our editorial policies.

The English Council Executive, meeting last weekend, have agreed two motions in support of trans rights and in response to the Federal Board changing the Party’s definition of transphobia.

  1. A motion of censure for the appalling communications calling for an apology and a plan to make sure nothing like this happens again.
  2. A motion calling on the Board to seek further advice, in consultation with LGBT+ Liberal Democrats, and suspend changing the definition until that advice is received and/or Federal Conference can vote.

The motions were passed with strong support from everyone who spoke, and no one spoke or voted against. This represents a wide consensus from regional chairs and members across the country.

Just under two weeks ago, the Federal Board met for the last time and, with Federal elections still under way, chose to amend the Party’s definition of Transphobia.

This change was published, without any explanatory communications, on Monday 14th November, the first day of this year’s Trans Awareness Week. This could hardly have been worse timing if it had been planned. Almost immediately we, the officers of the Party in England, began to receive messages of complaint and indeed distress from party members in local and regional parties across England. Meanwhile, transphobes were tweeting in triumph that they had scored a major victory.

In particular, people have been citing the removal of deadnaming and misgendering as transphobic, and the insertion of a passage which says that members are allowed to not merely hold but to express so-called gender critical (anti-trans) views, all of which people felt would make the Party a hostile and unsafe place for trans members. Without drawing any direct equivalence, a definition of racism would not include a statement that members could “hold and express white supremacist views”, nor would a definition of anti-Semitism include a statement that members could “hold and express Holocaust denial views”. Even the judgment in the Forstater case, which identified gender critical view as a protected belief, places strong limits on the expression of those anti-trans beliefs.

The Board say that the definition has been changed under pressure of legal advice. Following the Forstater vs CGD Europe case, the Board was asked for and commissioned legal advice. An opinion was also sought by those representing the very tiny number of people within the Party who oppose trans equality. We are told that both sets of advice agreed – but we do not know what questions the Board asked, whether they were specific and limited to Forstater or to investigate wider and look for more liberal options.

The Federal Board also sought the advice of LGBT+ Liberal Democrats (“Plus”) who strongly opposed the suggested change. We understand that the views of Plus were not communicated to the Board, and Plus were not given adequate notice or chance to respond before publication.

In particular, Plus expressed concern that the advice leaned heavily on the Forstater case, which is a case in employment law, and submitted evidence of two cases that had been decided by the European Court of Human Rights, ASLEF v UK and Arenz v Germany. These cases involved membership organisations, a British Trade Union and the German CDU political party, and the cases concern their Article 11 rights of Freedom of Association, to determine who could and could not be a member. As such, they are both more relevant and decided by a superior court to an employment appeal tribunal.

Of course, in a democratic Party, it is right to listen to the voices from all sides. But it is also incumbent on the dissenting opinion to accept when they have lost the argument and not try to use backroom deals or threats of legal action to overturn the Party values. We cannot allow it to appear that the Party’s values can be bought or changed by threat.

There are two issues. And two motions.

First is the devastating effect that the communication for this change has had on members and the Party’s wider reputation. Not just with trans siblings within and without the Party, but the very many people who are staunch allies, and feel that the Party has let them down over one of our most central values: the defence of human rights.

This is not about pointing fingers at individuals. But it is necessary to ask those in leadership positions to take responsibility. So, we call on Mark Pack as Chair of the Federal Board, and Mike Dixon, as CEO with responsibility for what is published in the Party’s name, to apologise and come to us and Plus with a plan that will prevent this happening again.

Second, there is the issue of the definition itself.

We think that there is sufficient doubt cast that all the legal cases have been considered, along with the failure to communicate Plus’s objections to the Board, that we would ask the Federal Board to think again.

We would like to gently remind the Federal Board that they are the servants of the Party membership and not the masters. It is their duty to listen to and represent the membership. And the members have spoken very clearly, on every occasion that trans issues have been tested at Federal Conference, by voting in large majorities to support trans rights, and recognise that a Liberal Party supports and protects everyone.

We therefore hope that they will listen to what has been said and think again on this issue.

LGBT+ Liberal Democrats have issued their own statement here.

We are fully in support of Plus and continue to consult with them.

Margaret Joachim is the English Candidates Chair and Richard Flowers is Treasurer.

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72 Comments

  • Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

  • Thanks for this update Margaret and Richard. It is good to see liberal voices offering leadership here.

  • Sarah Brown 24th Nov '22 - 5:13pm

    I applaud the use of “so called” with “gender critical”. That’s their euphemism for what they are. It’s like white supremacists calling themselves “race realists” or domestic abusers calling themselves “men’s rights activists”.

  • Richard Gadsden 24th Nov '22 - 5:13pm

    English Council Executive is hardly some wild-eyed bunch of radicals; it contains all the Regional Chairs, and a bunch of other senior figures across the English and Regional Parties.

    For them to be so profoundly condemnatory of the Federal Board shows just how far out of line the Board has gotten on this. This isn’t like Plus or the Young Liberals getting annoyed; these are the people who have to run the party day to day and who stay in touch with activists and campaigners all across the country.

  • Thank you! It’s really good to see the start of a fightback. Too often recently it’s seemed like the party’s response to anyone who doesn’t share our values is to roll over for a belly rub.

  • David Langshaw 24th Nov '22 - 5:24pm

    I’m not surprised you are going to moderate all comments on this subject – I don’t envy you your task. The problem I have is that this argument/debate/discussion is now so complex that I for one wouldn’t dare to express an opinion on any aspect of it for fear of outraging someone or another. I no longer understand the technical vocabulary being used by any of the participants, and some of the concepts are so niche that I am not sure they are understood by well-meaning members of the public (or the Party) who want to be informed. Frankly, it’s all getting rather tedious.
    Would it be possible, please, for someone to write a simple guide, in simple English, so that non-participants like me can try to catch up? Any explanation should exclude the words terf, gender critical, transphobe, deadnaming (hadn’t heard that one before) and any other terms which are either technical and/or terms of abuse. It should include clear guidance as to how I could ask questions of all concerned, and the vocabulary I am allowed to use, without being denounced by one side or the other.

  • Sarah Brown 24th Nov '22 - 5:55pm

    David: the nub is very simple, and this. There are people who exist and are trans.

    These people want to live their (our) lives in peace.

    Some other people find the existence of trans people distasteful. They are all either outright fascists, seeking to use this issue to generate outrage and help them take and keep power, or useful idiots for these people.

    The useful idiots, and some of the outright fascists, call themselves “gender critical”.

    Unfortunately, at least in the UK and US, they are winning.

    Those of us who are their targets would very much like your help, regardless of whether or not it seems complicated, because we are very, very frightened.

  • Mick Taylor 24th Nov '22 - 6:34pm

    I have in the past been v very critical of the English Party and the English Council/Executive in particular. I applaud the stand they are taking on trans issues and fully support their call for FB to think again and stand up to the terfs.

  • TERF = trans exclusionary radical feminist, a term coined by TERFs to distinguish themselves from proper feminists, which they now say is a slur because most people have worked out that wanting to exclude trans women from the definition of women is cruel and unnecessary

    Transphobe = TERF

    Gender Critical = the latest term that TERFs have coined to try to make themselves look reasonable

    Deadnaming = when someone changes their name, refusing to use the name they have chosen and instead using the name they were given at birth. This does not just apply to trans people, but to anyone who changes their name. IMHO anyone who does this is at best plain rude and disrespectful.

  • William Tench 24th Nov '22 - 6:59pm

    Well done to the Party in England!

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 24th Nov '22 - 7:18pm

    If anyone would like some help in understanding the issues, LGBT+ Lib Dems have produced some very good educational resources which cover the main issues. You can see it here. https://lgbt.libdems.org.uk/en/page/trans-educational-resources

  • Sarah Marsh 24th Nov '22 - 7:21pm

    Thank you!
    As Sarah Brown has said already, we are losing this battle, and it’s fearful. Our Consevative PM is working hard to remove trans rights of equality.
    Just this week on Camden Road I was harassed a number of times, things really do not feel safe.
    I so hate being trans, but I am, it’s not something I chose, and i so wish I were not.

  • Charley Hasted Charley Hasted 24th Nov '22 - 7:31pm

    As current Vice-chair and Chair Elect of LGBT+ Lib Dems we are incredibly grateful for the support, solidarity and sound allyship of the English Party on this.

    I’d also like to ask othe AO’s to join us in fighting back against this. Under UK law beliefs are either protected or they aren’t there are no beliefs that are more protected than others.

    If transphobes can scare the party into allowing them to express their beliefs and harm trans people by doing so then so can racists, misogynist, homophobes, anti-semites, islamophobes, ableists, xenophobes. The law sees no distinction between them in terms of how they are protected so we can stand together now or fall together down the line.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 24th Nov '22 - 7:32pm

    @Sarah Marsh I hear you and I am so sorry you are going through this and feel the way you do.

    One day we will have a society where you can live your life without fear and harassment.

  • Mark Johnston 24th Nov '22 - 7:44pm

    I agree the outgoing Board should explain why the policy was diluted, not just to the 35 people on the ECE group cited in the first paragraph but to all members. Also; what was the result of the vote, e.g. X for and Y against. Was it a roll-call vote? If not why not?

  • Neil Fawcett 24th Nov '22 - 7:49pm

    Thank You!

  • Alisdair McGregor 24th Nov '22 - 7:51pm

    Much like Mick Taylor, I find myself having to re-evaluate my stance of the usefulness of the English Party. I’m very glad that English State Party has come out to bat for Trans folk and for the Liberal principles involved.

  • Honestly, when you see the comments from trans people saying they are in fear of their lives and getting street harassment daily and they just want to be allowed to live, and compare it with the other side’s illusory worries about maybe seeing a penis in a changing room (I don’t know about you, but I don’t look at other people in my local gym’s gender neutral changing room, I just go into the cubicle and get changed…) it really makes you consider which side is actually having their human rights affected.

  • Jack Nicholls 24th Nov '22 - 9:59pm

    Well said Jennie. This was a disgraceful dilution of fundamental functional rights. I consider myself to be on the free speech end of civic liberalism, but that is never ever at the expense of freedom to exist and freedom from erasure. The English Party and Plus are to be congratulated, as are the millions of trans and genderflux/fluid/queer/non-conforming people who fight this battle through – among other things – their very existence. I’m slightly tearing up as I write this, full of pride in parts of our party and – I hope short-lived – profound frustration with others.

  • Phil Hellary 25th Nov '22 - 1:48am

    I’m pleasantly surprised by this and it strengthens my belief in the Liberal Democrats being a truly Liberal party where Trans rights are fought for and protected. Thank you to the English Council Executive for coming out so strongly and firmly against the decision of the Federal Executive and their use of dodgy backroom deals to push through a hateful agenda that the members have been overwhelmingly against time and time again.

  • Iain Coleman 25th Nov '22 - 1:59am

    I’m glad to see this strong statement from the English Council Executive. The Federal Board has done real harm to trans people, as well as damaging the reputation of the party. It should reverse its appalling decision immediately.

  • I confess that, like David above, I sometimes feel a bit lost by the detail of the debate but, at a very basic level, I think most of us (with a bit of empathy) can appreciate that it must be really tough to be a trans person, at least in society as it is now (and has been for centuries). If there are areas where we need to balance different liberties, I think we need to err on the side of supporting one of the minorities that probably have it the toughest in the modern world – and Sarah M’s comments above really bring that home.

    I thought Jennie’s comment about changing rooms also puts that in context: while I have enough empathy to understand why some women worry about this, those concerns do seem (relatively) trivial in the context of the greater hardship that trans people have to endure. So for that basic reason it feels important that we’re on their side.

  • Tony Dawson 25th Nov '22 - 9:50am

    I was ACTIVELY supporting trans rights decades ago when the vast majority of those making such a hue and cry about this issue now were doing absolutely nothing at all about the issue – it probably never crossed their minds. Just as I PHYSICALLY defended my gay friends in the streets of Scotland in the early 1970s just after the laws changed.

    I am saddened by the way in which this issue is causing fragmenting and weakening of a seriously-diminished Party. People on all sides of this debate (there are more than two!) need to take a deep breath and remind themselves that many of those they disagree with have sacrificed big chunks of their lives in the cause of Liberalism over decades. They do not all become fundamentally illiberal overnight.

    People need to talk, not throw insults or claim ‘victories’.

  • David Langshaw 25th Nov '22 - 10:03am

    @Sarah Brown – sorry if this sounds aggressive, Sarah, but all you have done is explain the terms which I said should NOT be used in an explanation of the situation. I know what those terms mean, but 1) most of the population doesn’t, and 2) most of them are terms of “abuse” used by one side to denounce the other. Also, it doesn’t help to immediately characterise your opponents as either fascists or useful idiots: it’s like the Alt-Right in America denouncing al trans people as paedophiles – it defies belief.

    Maybe some people are just ignorant of the nature and extent of the problem trans people face, and the threats they may – or may not – pose to women’s rights? Encouraging them to understand the situation might be more helpful than instant denunciation. Perhaps we could discourage the use of “-phobic” as well (in most situations) as it’s no longer a useful categorisation, just a word to shout at people.

  • David Garlick 25th Nov '22 - 10:25am

    Thank you for acting on this.
    All I can say is that evryone is a human being and should not be subjected to discrimination. We need to be clear on that and clear on how we would tackle discrimination whenever and where ever it surfaces.

  • I really want to see what the previous Federal Board say about this. While I have total sympathy for Trans people I would remind everyone why The Board took this decision – as a result of Legal Advice & presumably with the fear that The Party could be sued & perhaps bankrupted. Am I right in that interpretation ? If I am, I would ask for some sympathy for the Boards members.

  • Mick Taylor 25th Nov '22 - 1:08pm

    Paul Barker. No sympathy is due to people who take decisions on partial evidence and in a hurry. I am told that at least one of the QCs who advised FB has a history of being anti trans and also that the opinions of PLUS were not circulated to FB. Fundamentally this is an issue if human rights and in our party we do not give licence to people who would deny them to any group or minority. Yet that’s exactly what FB has done however they choose to spin it. TERFs are trumpeting this as a great victory and the damage that is doing to our party is incalculable, before even considering the hurt and anguish to trans people many of whom are my friends.
    An immediate suspension of this decision is urgent and vital and I urge everyone to write to Mark Pack asking to act. Then we need the new board and the council to look at this again with the benefit of unbiased advice and full and proper consultation with PLUS.

  • @David L:
    Trans women are a subset of women. Trans women’s rights ARE women’s rights. Therefore to say that there’s a conflict between women’s rights and trans rights is an absurdity at the start.

    The nature and extent of the problems faced by trans women (and men, and non-binary people) start with a small but noisy group of people refusing to accept that a person is who they say they are. This then escalates to harassment, public mockery, street violence, people being doxxed and SWATted, and occasionally murdered.

    All that I want for my trans siblings is for people to accept that they are who they say they are and to leave them to get on with their lives. I, personally, do not think that’s too much to ask for.

  • Mary Regnier-Wilson 25th Nov '22 - 2:23pm

    As a member of the Fed Board I’d like to clarify that the definition passed was the strongest of the possibilities we were presented with by lawyers. Iirc there were a few votes against, but all by people who instead wanted extra language within the definition which would have been much much worse.

  • Tony,

    This is not really about trans rights, as it is about Equality and Human rights (no special treatment).
    Any group, race, gender, orientation, identity, we all deserve Equality.

    I am also saddened by people thinking gender critical thinking and especially voicing opinions as facts is OK.

    As a simplification for some people:
    I am a trans woman. Trans is an adjective, describing a woman.

    I am legally, medically and socially… a woman.

    You may express your opinion that you don’t see me as a real woman and I would fully defend that right, but Telling me I am a man, calling me a man is not!
    Thats the distinction.

    People who do not see me as a woman are fully entitled to their opinion, but unnecessarily drawing a distinction between me and cis women is discriminatory, just as a media outlet could not print a (black, Jewish, American or any other distinction) commitment an assault. The distinction is unnecessary and discriminatory.

    The fact that there are so many people who protect equalities, but not for trans people (like conversion therapy), is very sad indeed.

    Equality is not for selected groups, but for all.

  • David Langshaw 25th Nov '22 - 2:46pm

    Sorry, @ Andrew H, that’s not very helpful. All I am asking for is for the debate to be toned down a bit, so that people who are not already participants can ask questions and try to learn something without fear or favour, and you call me disingenuous! That’s precisely the problem I am trying to overcome.

    @Jennie, you say “All that I want for my trans siblings is for people to accept that they are who they say they are and to leave them to get on with their lives. I, personally, do not think that’s too much to ask for.” I agree wholeheartedly. But from what I read in the newspapers, on social media, and on this site, there are a number of other problems to be addressed as well.

  • Jenny Barnes 25th Nov '22 - 3:45pm

    David L “Encouraging them to understand the situation might be more helpful than instant denunciation.”
    Google is your friend. Trans people have quite enough to put up with without explaining things to people who may very well be asking the questions in bad faith. I don’t say you are, but there are plenty who do.

  • Richard Gadsden 25th Nov '22 - 5:34pm

    “But from what I read in the newspapers, on social media, and on this site, there are a number of other problems to be addressed as well.”

    The newspapers, the social media, and even those on this site who say that are lying. So are their academic papers, their alleged research and their freedom of information results. They’re lying, usually, by omission or context – by carefully framing a question (as they did with the legal opinions that kicked all of this off) so as to get something that appears to be the answer they want.

    It’s very easy to tell. Really: if they don’t overtly say that trans women are women, then everything else is a lie created to imply that trans people are more dangerous than cis people without ever once saying so.

    So many times I’ve seen a claim like “because we can’t tell the difference between trans women and cis men pretending to be trans women …” and the problem here is that we can tell that difference, so anything that follows from this has no basis; the logic can be as sound as you like, if the premise is wrong, then you can’t prove anything from that.

  • Thank you very much to the Party in England, the LDV team, and to those who have voiced their views and particularly their personal experiences here. I would hate for any trans person to feel like this party wasn’t a safe space for them. We should not be mollycoddling hate groups.

    The one small piece of pedantry I want to engage in is that, while all TERFs are transphobic, not all transphobes are TERFs. TERFs are people who base their transphobia on a warped and incredible version of feminism. They’re the loudest transphobes, but far from the only ones – for example, there are religious transphobes, or the “anti-woke” brigade who hate cis women almost as much as they hate trans people.

  • Judith Bailey 25th Nov '22 - 7:54pm

    Andrew Hickey – a stirring call for the Party to stand up against unjust laws. It makes me uneasy, though, that the laws in question here are the Equality Act and the European Convention on Human Rights. Can that really be a good look for the Liberal Democrats?

  • Mick Taylor 26th Nov '22 - 8:42am

    The whole argument is so clearly explained by Richard Gadsden. Those who postulate that CIS men will dress up as women and pretend to be trans just to get into women’s spaces have yet to provide any evidence. And, come on, does anyone really think that the sort of men who want to break into women’s spaces would ever think of dressing as women, when for the most part they are aggressively heterosexual and attack other men who look even remotely feminine and call them out as homosexuals? That sort of CIS man wouldn’t be seen dead in women’s clothes.
    No, the whole TERF argument lacks any basis in fact and FB have fallen for a specious argument, despite what Mary Regnier-Wilson has to say. The wording may be less bad than others proposed, but the real choice was to make no change at all.
    As Liberals we support a society in which none shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity. The FB decision endorses ignorance and conformity and must be changed.

  • Paul Barker 26th Nov '22 - 2:44pm

    We have had the case for The Prosecution (against the previous Federal Board) & I can see no point in this thread until we see The Case for The Defence.

  • A huge thank you to the English Party for this response. Have the Scottish and Welsh parties reacted?

  • Very glad to see the English state party come out so strongly against this diabolical decision.

    Almost everyone here has introduced themselves as male/female and never had someone demand to see their genitals to prove that they are ‘telling the truth’

    The TERFs, Transpobes, and LDem members rejoicing at this decision have that as their ultimate endgoal, for there is no other way to practically enforce the sex based apartheid rules and laws they want to create.

    The people saying ‘both sides have merit’, ‘people don’t become illiberal overnight’, and ‘to be liberal is to dissagree’ should remember that.

    And before any of them or their apologists call that hyperbole….it is now the law in Florida that if someone suspects that a schoolgirl competing in school sport isn’t a cis female she must show her genitals to a medical professional. Thats the world these people are creating.

  • Mick Taylor 27th Nov '22 - 8:09am

    @Paul Barker. I was prepared to give you the benefit of the doubt, but it is now clear which side you are on. There is no case for the defence other than pretending that there are legal risks in maintaining the transphobia definition unchanged. It’s very interesting that apart from Mary Regnier-Wilson no-one from FB is defending their decision. I have had a defence of sorts from Mark Pack, but it’s all about legal risks. If there is a risk of being sued – and I doubt there is – , we should raise a defence fund and tell these transphobes that we’ll see them in court. Liberals don’t back down in the face of unjust laws as has been pointed out elsewhere on this thread.
    Perhaps the time has come for a constitutional amendment that FB can’t tinker with?

  • Jenny Barnes 27th Nov '22 - 10:53am

    Just when you thought it might be safe to venture out on the internet again, the Guardian, an alleged left leaning media outlet, publishes an enormous transphobic rant about the Scottish Parliament’s plans for gender recognition.

  • Can I remind everyone that this is an open site – an unfriendly journalist could blow this up into a big story about Libdems splits – plenty go juicy quotes on this thread.

    I appeal once more for some tolerance & restraint & an end to personal attacks.

  • Interesting that no mention is made in this thread about trans men and their access to male spaces.

  • David evans 27th Nov '22 - 6:01pm

    I agree with Tony Dawson, I am saddened by the way in which this issue is causing fragmenting and weakening of a seriously-diminished Party.

    People need to talk, not throw insults or claim ‘victories’.

  • I’m an aromatic, greysexual, polyamorous lesbian who came out last year and I don’t feel safe in the party anymore.

  • Tristan Ward 28th Nov '22 - 11:43am

    “There is no case for the defence other than pretending that there are legal risks in maintaining the transphobia definition unchanged”

    How about: “We will at all times defend the right to speak, write …… freely” (from the pre-amble to the party constitution? Not to mention Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights

    Editor note: I have removed the links to the advice as it has been suggested that we can’t publish these without permission.

  • Tristan Ward 28th Nov '22 - 11:44am

    Article 10 of the European Convention of Human Rights

    Freedom of expression
    1Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers. This Article shall not prevent States from requiring the licensing of broadcasting, television or cinema enterprises.

    2The exercise of these freedoms, since it carries with it duties and responsibilities, may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the protection of the reputation or rights of others, for preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary.

  • Tristan Ward 28th Nov '22 - 11:49am

    those unfamilar with the subject may be interested to look at this Wikipedia article about the genetics of sex determination: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sex-determining_region_Y_protein

    It seems to me that any meaningful discussion of trans rights has to take this stuff into account.

    Obviously, whatever the genotype, ever person is entitled to respect, equal treatment before the law, and the opportunity to make the most of his/her/their life without invasions of privacy..

  • Tristan Ward 28th Nov '22 - 12:27pm

    “If anyone would like some help in understanding the issues, LGBT+ Lib Dems have produced some very good educational resources which cover the main issues. You can see it here. https://lgbt.libdems.org.uk/en/page/trans-educational-resources

    This is really useful, thank you for highlighting it, and thank you to those who put it together.

  • If what motivated the Federal Board is the risk of being sued by transphobes, it sounds to me like trans people need to show that we can be just as litigious.

  • It’s a wee bit disappointing that the first thing that someone on Fed Board posted on this thread closes ranks and defends Fed Board’s decision. It would seem more appropriate to acknowledge the real hurt Fed Board’s actions caused, apologise, and commit to finding a workable solution.

  • Denis Mollison 28th Nov '22 - 3:13pm

    “finding a workable solution”

    I think the simplest and most liberal solution would be not to attempt to have our own definitions of offences such as transphobia and antisemitism.
    I appreciate that they have been put forward with the best intentions, but trying to rewrite the law and the dictionary causes more problems than it solves, as the present bad-tempered exchanges illustrate.
    If we believe the law is inadequate, we should campaign to change it. Perhaps if we persuade enough of the public with our arguments, we may even be able to change the dictionary 🙂
    Meanwhile, I commend the Federal Board for trying to ensure that any definitions we use are compatible with existing laws, especially the Equality Act and international human rights laws.

  • Phil Beesley 28th Nov '22 - 6:04pm

    Andrew Hickey: “Links to documents which purport to be leaked copies of confidential advice given the party, which, assuming they’re genuine, show that the party employed a lawyer who doesn’t practice in the area in question, making the advice dubious at best.”

    I don’t have the money to buy legal advice casually, but if I had the option I might choose a lawyer who was fresh to the subject. When seeking a frank, open opinion I might seek someone who did not need to provide caveats about previous cases. I’d want a lawyer who will research and analyse the topic.

    The lawyers who wrote the leaked documents wrote them in the realisation that they were not private.

  • Tristan Ward 28th Nov '22 - 6:25pm

    @ Andrew Hickey

    “Free speech. Which is not infringed in any way by the party saying that it doesn’t want members who don’t agree with its values. ”

    Free Speech IS one of our values, and it seems to me that a liberal party should discipline people who exercise their rights of free speech in a way that is consistent with other liberal values.”

    Perhaps unfortunately “free speech” includes – at least in the opinion of JS Mill (see chapter 2 of On Liberty) the right to hold opinions others think misguided and/or objectionable and even opinions that are potentially potentially harmful.

    Thirdly, our constitution’s preamble also says we will “promote human rights”, and those rights include (at least according to the European Convention on Human Rights, in article 10) the right to “freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions” presumably whether others find those opinions objectionable/wrong/harmful etc.

    So I simply can’t see how a liberal party can exclude or discipline members merely because of their opinions. Where we as a party can exclude people (in my opinion) is if those opinions are expressed in a way that significantly conflicts in an irreconcilable way with other liberal values, and, in the context of this discussion in particular, with the over riding statement that ” no-one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity”.

    The point about free speech of course is that it enables people to escape from ignorance.

  • Tristan Ward 28th Nov '22 - 6:54pm

    @Andrew Hickey

    “Links to documents which purport to be leaked copies of confidential advice given the party”

    I gave links to three sets of advice, two by Guy Vassall-Adams KC, and one by Karon Monaghan KC . Both hold themselves out as experienced in human rights law which seems bang on point here. For what it’s worth they come to the same conclusion about the old Lib dem disciplinary policy. Matrix Chambers (host to both barristers) is among the leading chambers for equality and discrimination law.

    .
    According to her self-publicity, Karen Monaghan seems vastly experienced in this area, but of course it was not she who was instructed by the party.

    I would be very surprised if both KCs had overlooked the ASLEF v UK and Arenz v Germany cases referred to if they were relevant but such things do happen.

    More about Karen Monaghan KC: https://www.matrixlaw.co.uk/member/karon-monaghan/

    More about Guy Vassall-Adams KC: https://www.matrixlaw.co.uk/member/guy-vassall-adams/

    I am sorry you find it necessary to assert (by implication) that the opinions are not genuine. I posted them in good faith. So far as I can tell (I am solicitor but have no experience in this area of law) the conclusions seem sound.

  • Phil Beesley 28th Nov '22 - 6:57pm

    William: “It’s a wee bit disappointing that the first thing that someone on Fed Board posted on this thread closes ranks and defends Fed Board’s decision.”

    The English language and its comprehension is complex.

    If we look up the military or political definitions of “close ranks”, it’s about troops forming a circle , an assembly of forces.

    Mary Regnier-Wilson “put her head up” in vernacular.

  • Tristan Ward 28th Nov '22 - 7:11pm

    @ Andrew Hickey

    “3) Article 10 of the ECHR, which *as discussed in the original post* doesn’t apply here, unlike Article 11, which does.”

    Firstly I can’t see Article 10 mentioned in the original article at all. Is it realy discussed?

    I don’t agree that article 10 isn’t relevant. We are talking about disciplining members of the party who hold opinions others consider unacceptable, when holding opinions others consider unacceptable is:

    1 (according to the European Convention of Humans Rights) a basic human right – and therefore something liberals are supposed to care about, because we care about human rights; and

    2 something JS MiIl and Harriet Taylor – arguably the people who provided liberalism with its bible – consider one of the tenets of the liberal creed.

  • Phil Beesley 28th Nov '22 - 7:30pm

    Two EEs in my Beesley, please. Smiley thingy.

    Andrew Hickey: ‘But clearly the Federal Board, like so many in politics today, has “had enough of experts”.’

    Any quick web search relating to UK politics using the expression ‘had enough of experts’ matches the language of Michael Gove or mates. It isn’t particularly Liberal.

  • Tristan Ward 28th Nov '22 - 7:34pm

    @ Andrew Hickey

    4) A Wikipedia link to something about Y chromosomes which, despite Tristan’s assertion, has no bearing *whatsoever* on trans rights.

    I think you are wrong about this. The public discussion of trans rights, for better or worse, centres on “what is a man” and “what is a woman” Since it does, an understanding of how biological sex works seems to me to be useful.

    The LGBT+ Lib Dems paper referred to in the thread supports the idea that an understanding of the biology is helpful since it explains (correctly) that sexual characteristics are not just a matter of X chromosomes and Y chromosomes.

    Where I expect we agree is that biological sex or identified gender should have no bearing on an individual’s rights in law or how they are treated in society, provided of course no harm is done to others.

    And I expect that we will also agree that the characteristic of being trans does no any harm to anyone.

  • Tristan Ward 28th Nov '22 - 9:00pm

    @ Mark Valladares

    “A political party should have every right to exclude those who, in its view, don’t share its values”

    Yes but it is surely difficult where the defence is “I was exercising my (liberal) right to hold and express my opinion”.

    I am now going to get into potentially painful territory – but that is not a reason for not talking about these things. To quote On Liberty: “it is only by the collision of adverse opinions that the remainder of the truth has any chance of being supplied”.

    So (deep breath) I am not convinced that it is illiberal to refer to a trans woman or non-binary person as a “biological man”. I am not (yet) persuaded that a liberal cannot talk about biology provided it is done with care.

    It is illiberal to go on to say that trans people may be treated differently from cis people. And it is completely unacceptable and illiberal to treat trans people differently to cis people. That would offend the great principle that “no-one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity” and “we champion the freedom, dignity and well-being of individuals”.

    I think the problem arises from treating people as members of groups rather than as individuals. It shouldn’t matter whether you are a member of a group defined as white or black or cis or trans. Individuals are different from each other: that is a glory of humanity. What matters is that every identity is valued and is free to develop its talents to the full.

  • Oh good lord save me from the “BUT BIOLOGY!!!” argument.

    Does any single one of you who puts this argument forward actually know what your own phenotype is or how variable it can be, or are you just going by a quick glance a doctor/midwife had at your genitals when you were born?

    A Liberal does not say they know better than an individual what that individual is. It’s that simple. Anything else is specious claptrap to justify oppression, and if you’re justifying oppression, o hate to break it to you, but you’re not actually a Liberal.

  • Mick Taylor 29th Nov '22 - 7:56am

    Jennie is, as she often is, spot on in her observations about biology. I did some research and found a very useful definition of Phenotype from the National Human Genome Research Institute. I would especially draw attention to the last 4 sentences, which amplify what Jennie was saying and give the lie to ‘but biology’ argument.
    ” ‘Phenotype’ simply refers to an observable trait. ‘Pheno’ simply means ‘observe’ and comes from the same root as the word ‘phenomenon’. And so it’s an observable type of an organism, and it can refer to anything from a common trait, such as height or hair color, to presence or absence of a disease. Frequently, phenotypes are related and used–the term is used–to relate a difference in DNA sequence among individuals with a difference in trait, be it height or hair color, or disease, or what have you. But it’s important to remember that phenotypes are equally, or even sometimes more greatly influenced by environmental effects than genetic effects. So a phenotype can be directly related to a genotype, but not necessarily. There’s usually not a one-to-one correlation between a genotype and a phenotype. There are almost always environmental influences, such as what one eats, how much one exercises, how much one smokes, etc. All of those are environmental influences which will affect the phenotype as well.”

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