Stonewall is right, but not just for the reasons you might think


A recent High Court ruling was supportive but the law clearly supports Stonewall at a more basic level


Anti-trans activists are trying to bring down Stonewall by claiming that it has given inaccurate legal advice to organisations. Defenders of Stonewall point out that its interpretation of the Equality Act 2010 was found to be accurate by the High Court. This is correct, but does not tell the full story.


Recently the High Court did confirm the accuracy of the Equality and Human Rights Commission statutory guidance on discrimination in services. The guidance states that transgender people have a qualified right to use single and separate sex spaces in the gender in which they present, in the context of services such as gyms. This was a welcome ruling, but one that merely confirmed what trans people and their allies have stated for some time. The ruling also refers explicitly to services. Currently, allegations are being levelled at Stonewall with respect to employment law.


First, Stonewall is not a law firm. Stonewall is an LGBT advocacy organisation and any advice given is likely to have been general advice about best practices. It is always incumbent for organisations to take independent legal advice that relates to their specific circumstances.


One claim is that Stonewall advised organisations to use “gender identity or trans status” instead of the term “gender reassignment” in their policies. However, gender reassignment is a legal term of art. A lay person might think it only refers to trans people who have undergone surgery. But in fact, gender reassignment is a wide legal term that include trans people who choose not to undergo a medical transition, trans people who intend to transition but who have not yet started their transition, and non-binary people. In a document aimed at non-lawyers, it is correct to use everyday language.


The other claim is that Stonewall advised organisations to institute policies that would cause the organisations to break Health and Safety legislation. Our extensive legal analysis, [available here], shows that rather than encourage organisations to commit crimes, Stonewall’s preferred policies actually help protect organisations from paying unlimited compensation for unlawful discrimination against trans people.

In summary: these Health and Safety regulations have been in place for around 30 years. Despite accusations of law breaking, in the entire history of the legislation there are no documented instances of organisations facing prosecution for allowing transgender people to use single-sex spaces that match their presentation.


In conclusion, no evidence has been presented that any advice given by Stonewall is contrary to equality law. In fact, Jaguar Land Rover were recently ordered by an Employment Tribunal to receive advice from Stonewall, or a similar organisation, on how to become a “standard setting organisation in the diversity and inclusion field”.


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The Trans Legal Project blog is a place where we express opinions and offer commentary on aspects of the law, recent or upcoming cases etc.

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