LGB Alliance court case to decide whether anti-trans group is stripped of charity status

LGB Alliance logo and a sign saying trans rights are human rights

A court hearing to decide whether anti-trans organisation LGB Alliance should ever have been awarded charity status begins Friday (9 September).

The LGB Alliance has attracted criticism from the LGBTQ+ community since it was formed in October 2019.

While it claims to stand up for lesbian, gay and bisexual people, its work is largely focused on lobbying against advancements to trans rights.

Its co-founders include Allison Bailey, the lesbian barrister who waged and lost a legal fight against Stonewall and straight former Labour councillor Ann Sinnott, who quit Cambridge council in 2018 over trans women being allowed to use women’s bathrooms.

When the group applied for charity status, more than 40,000 people signed a petition urging the Charity Commission to reject the application on the grounds it is an “anti-trans hate group”.

However the commission disagreed, and its application was accepted in April 2021.

This week’s appeal, spearheaded by trans youth charity Mermaids, and supported by LGBT+ Consortium, Gendered Intelligence, LGBT Foundation, TransActual and Good Law Project, will question the Charity Commission’s decision to register LGB Alliance.

A tribunal will be heard at London’s General Regulatory Chamber from 9 to 16 September and will, according to LGB Alliance, be the first time a charity has challenged another charity’s registration in court.

Both Good Law Project and LGB Alliance have crowdfunded for the appeal, raising £74,795 and £165,170 respectively.

What is Mermaids’ case against LGB Alliance?

Mermaids’ case was initially filed solely against the Charity Commissioner – it is the commission’s decision the trans rights charity is appealing – but LGB Alliance was later added as a second respondent.

According to court filings, Mermaids will argue LGB Alliance does not meet two key criteria for charitable status under the Charities Act 2011 – that an organisation’s objectives “give rise to tangible, legally recognised benefits that outweigh any associated harms”, and that they “benefit the public or a sufficient section of the public”.

On its website, LGB Alliance describes itself as a “charity that supports lesbian, gay and bisexual people by building community, providing high quality information, being a source of inspiration for people who feel marginalised and seeking to influence government and decision makers to prioritise the needs and rights of same-sex attracted people”.

But in March 2020, during a speech given just four days before LGB Alliance applied for charity status, LGB Alliance, co-founder and director Bev Jackson said: “We’re applying for charitable status and building an organisation to challenge the dominance of those who promote the damaging theory of gender identity.”

In its appeal, Mermaids argues: “LGB Alliance does not engage in any (or any significant) activities relating to education, human rights or equality and diversity.

“Each of the seven campaigns listed on LGB Alliance’s website relates to the promotion of LGBA’s beliefs by political campaigning, lobbying or social media activity, and the undermining of charities promoting LGBT rights.”

At the time the appeal was filed, in June 2021, every one of the campaigns listed on the LGB Alliance website was said to be related to trans rights, gender identity or the protection of so-called ‘gender critical’ beliefs.

If LGB Alliance achieves its goals, Mermaids argues, there is no “common understanding” this would “benefit the public”. In fact, Mermaids said pursuit of their purposes “gives rise to significant disbenefits, including encouraging discrimination against transgender people; engaging in offensive public-facing communications; and hampering the efforts of registered LGBT rights charities to further their own charitable objects”.

In terms of the section of society LGB Alliance serves, Mermaids said: “LGB Alliance seeks only to operate for the benefit of lesbian and gay people who are both not transgender and who share LGBA’s beliefs.

“Since the class of beneficiaries is restricted capriciously and in a manner which does not accord with public policy [recognised in equalities legislation]… it does not represent a sufficient section of the public.”

Mermaids also states LGB Alliance’s charitable status “is likely to impede Mermaids’ efforts to pursue its own charitable objects” and will cause financial loss.

Summing up the argument, Jo Maugham, director of Good Law Project, told PinkNews :”As every law student knows, if you make a four pronged instrument for manual digging you’ve made a fork, however much you insist you’ve made a spade.

“And that’s the issue in this case. It is by its activities – which are focused on the exclusion of trans people – that LGB Alliance reveals what it truly is. And we don’t think those activities are charitable.”

How is LGB Alliance planning to defend its charitable status?

According to its response to Mermaids’ appeal, LGB Alliance’s first defence will be that the charity does not have “legal standing” to bring the case at all.

“They [Mermaids] disagree with LBG Alliance’s aims and beliefs for emotional, political and intellectual reasons,” the group wrote.

“They are entitled to hold such views. Their views do not, however, confer on the appellant the ability to apply to strike the LGB Alliance from the charities register.”

LGB Alliance claimed in its response it should not be required to work for the advancement of trans rights alongside LGB rights because, “for example, charities aimed at advancing the rights of Black women would prima facie not be expected to focus on advancing the rights of white men”.

The group claimed to represent all LGB people, including those who do not agree with their beliefs on sex and gender “at all”.

However it also described those who define their orientation by which gender or genders they are attracted to as having an “exclusionary view of homosexuality”.

And the group said its trustees formed LGB Alliance because they have the “belief or perspective that same-sex attraction is, and should be, defined and organised by biological sex – male or female – and not by gender identity”.

It described Mermaids’ allegation that its true purpose was not to work for LGB rights but instead to attack trans people, as “unfounded and malicious”.

It also insisted Mermaids, by solely working on trans rights and issues, “organises itself in precisely the same way” as LGB Alliance, adding: “It is therefore hypocritical for Mermaids to suggest LGB Alliance’s objects are illegitimate or too narrow.”