Barrister Allison Bailey has been embroiled in a row concerning trans rights and intends to sue Stonewall, a charity supporting LGBT rights, in addition to her own chambers, for discrimination. The basis of her claim lies in an investigation launched by Stonewall and Garden Court Chambers into Ms Bailey and her criticisms of Stonewall in the past. Namely, her vigorous support for LGB rights and contentious views towards transgender rights has caused a stir and been labelled ‘transphobic’. Ms Bailey asserts that the investigation that has resulted has been discriminatory and represents an attempt to silence her.
The case turns on the contentious issue of LGB versus LGBT rights.
Whilst both groups advocate for lesbian, gay and bisexual rights, one of the core ideals of the LGB group is that biological sex is observed at birth and not later assigned. They believe that gender ideologies ‘present a threat to people whose sexual orientation is towards the same sex, or to both sexes’. LGB activists have come under fire in the past for their perceived anti-trans stance, being consequently labelled ‘transphobic’.
Originating from Stonewall, the UK’s leading LGBT+ organisation, the LGB group formed a breakaway campaign known as the ‘LGB Alliance’. The group accused Stonewall of promoting a ‘trans agenda’ at the expense of lesbian and gay rights and was set up by several campaigners, one of whom is Allison Bailey.
Ms Bailey, a feminist, lesbian and lifelong campaigner for racial equality, lesbian, gay and bisexual rights, helped to set up the LGB Alliance. Her own activism scrutinises ‘new trans activism’, as she raises concerns about replacing sex with gender. She worries that replacing sex with notions of gender identity, and hence allowing any man that wishes to identify as a woman to do so without contention, can create series issues for female identity and women’s rights.
Allison Bailey states that she rejects the suggestion by trans activists and their supporters “that women like me must give way in our activism to more worthy causes and just shut up about our concerns about the new trans activism, as advocated for by Stonewall”. She refers to the term ‘TERF’s an example of such dismissal. The acronym, standing for ‘Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminist’ has been used repeatedly against women such as Allison, who question the new trans movement. The derogatory term only recently reared its ugly head once again when J.K. Rowling displayed her own thoughts on sex and gender issues on Twitter. The author of the Harry Potter series was condemned for expressing her thoughts on female identity and faced a media storm for her allegedly transphobic views.
Ms Bailey asserts that “labelling all critical voices ‘transphobic’ is a cynical political ploy of the new trans activism. It must be resisted”. However, the barrister’s emphatic endorsement of the LGB Alliance and subsequent accusations of transphobia have led her into muddy waters. Stonewall and Garden Court Chambers launched an investigation into Allison.
In October 2019, following the launch of LGB Alliance, Allison took to Twitter to openly advocate for the group. Garden Court Chambers then contacted Ms Bailey asking her to remove reference to chambers on her Twitter bio. They then announced that they were investigating her. Stonewall, the organisation behind the investigation, had asserted that if Garden Court Chambers did not take action against Allison, then their relationship would be damaged.
After lodging Subject Access Requests to Stonewall and her chambers, Ms Bailey discovered that there were four lever arch files worth of documents concerning Allison. There was evidence of several liaisons, ‘roundtable’ meetings, discussions with third party organisations and consultations with individuals within the chambers, none of which was known to the barrister at the time.
Allison Bailey argues that lesbian, gay and bisexual people should be free to campaign for their rights ‘without apology or permission from Stonewall or anyone else’. She is therefore bringing a case centred around the indirect discrimination that she has faced as a result of her gender critical beliefs. She asserts that she has been subjected to victimisation because of the concerns that she has raised about Stonewall’s actions.
A CrowdJustice page was therefore set up to raise money for her case. Peter Daly of Slater and Gordon Lawyers and Aileen McColgan QC have been instructed to represent Allison and the claim has been lodged act the Employment Tribunal.
On the page, Allison writes “this is a case about me and my treatment. But it is also a case about Stonewall and its conduct against people who hold beliefs like mine. I do not believe that my treatment by Stonewall is unique, and I suspect that there are many others (whether they know it or not) who have been subjected to the same treatment. I hope that as a result of bringing this claim this treatment will stop”.
The crowdfunder raised £48,000 within six hours. However, CrowdJustice then removed the page following complaints about some of the content. It has now been reinstated along with a statement from CrowdJustice’s CEO, Julia Salasky, stating that “we allowed Ms Bailey’s CrowdJustice case page to launch before ensuring its content in its entirety met the high standards that our community expects of us… We have had complaints about some of the content of Allison Bailey’s case page and because of the serious nature of the complaints we followed our policy to take the page down while it was reviewed in detail against our terms”. Althgouh Allison met her target and a total of £60,050 has now been raised for her cause, the platform refused to allow her to raise her goal as it does with other funding pages. The barrister explained on Twitter that neither the removal of her page or the changes made to it when it was republished were done with her permission or knowledge.
However, CrowdJustice have confirmed that the £60,050 pledged will be transferred to Allison Bailey’s solicitors’ client account and all of it will be used for her legal fees.
The Allison Bailey v Stonewall and Garden Court Chambers case is set to provide some interesting clarification on the extent of curtailing the LGB movement and whether this constitutes discrimination.
Whilst the differing views from LGB and LGBT communities may be divisive and controversial given their highly personal nature, discriminating against an individual is unacceptable. It appears as though Stonewall may have crossed a line in launching an investigation into Allison, which she claims reflected an attempt to ‘intimidate and silence’ her. The powerful transgender lobby has struck out at the individual barrister for stepping out of line, and whilst her views are criticised by many, the rapid success of her crowdfunding mirrors her compelling case.
Garden Court Chambers has stated “we strongly refute any claim that we have acted unlawfully or in any way colluded with Stonewall. We consider these allegations to be groundless and the claim to be without merit”. While the outcome is yet to be decided, this will be an interesting case to watch out for as it develops over the coming months.
Sophia Gonella, The Student Lawyer