LGB Alliance’s claim to serve LGB people is ‘fanciful’, tribunal hears

An activist holds a transgender pride flag at a protest by Transgender Action Block and supporters outside the first annual conference of the LGB Alliance

A tribunal heard arguments against the LGB Alliance holding charitable status, with trans charity Mermaids arguing it would be “fanciful” to suggest it serves LGB people.

On Monday (7 November), the tribunal hearing an appeal to overturn LGB Alliance’s registration as a charity, spearheaded by trans children’s charity Mermaids and supported by an array of LGBTQ+ rights groups, resumed. The two respondents in the case are the Charity Commission and LGB Alliance.

The tribunal hearings began on 9 September, and between 12 and 16 September evidence was heard from both sides at London’s General Regulatory Chamber.

On Monday (7 November), Mermaids’ counsel Michael Gibbon laid out the argument against LGB Alliance’s charitable status, in the first of two days of submissions.

Gibbon described Mermaids’ case that LGB Alliance does not comply with 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”.

Addressing the latter, Gibbon told the tribunal that he accepted that a charity focussed on LGB rights would fulfil the obligation to “benefit… a sufficient section of the public”.

He said that Mermaids was not arguing that the charity’s stated objectives constituted a legal “sham”.

However, he said it was “fanciful” to suggest that LGB people in general “are amongst those which LGB Alliance claims to serve”.

He described the numerous ways in which Mermaids said LGB Alliance’s stated charitable objects – to campaign for lesbian, gay and bisexual rights – do not align with the majority of its work, which focuses on opposing trans rights reforms.

Gibbon summarised points made by LGB Alliance founders Kate Harris and Bev Jackson in giving evidence and in their witness statements, where they suggested that “a gender-based view of sexuality is homophobic”.

Gibbon said that evidence had shown that LGB Alliance believes that “LGB rights are intrinsically in conflict with trans rights”, and that by being “pro-LGB” as defined by LGB Alliance, the “effect is to challenge and to be against trans rights”.

In putting forward its “controversial” views, Gibbon said, LGB Alliance “cannot claim that there is a common understanding that to do so is for the public benefit”.

Mermaids are on LGB Alliance’s ‘hit list’, tribunal hears

LGB Alliance has questioned Mermaids’ legal standing to bring the case, as to do so it must show that it “is or may be affected by the decision” of the Charity Commission.

Making his submission on Monday, Gibbon set out Mermaids’ argument for why it is affected by LGB Alliance’s charitable status.

He referred to Bev Jackson’s witness statement, in which she lists 32 organisations and media outlets she believes to be part of the “gender identity lobby”, though she adds that there are “a great many other organisations” involved. 

Through LGB Alliance’s messaging, Gibbon said, it suggests that “the gender identity lobby is responsible… for human rights abuses”, and added: “Mermaids sits alongside Stonewall in what you might call a hit list.” 

Good Law Project, which is supporting Mermaids in its case, said in a statement: “We believe we have a moral imperative to use our voice to support those who are systematically excluded and silenced.

“This challenge is about whether LGB ‘Alliance’ has a claim to charitable status and the financial benefits this confers.

“Charitable status is for those who serve the public good. Campaigning to limit legal protections for trans people and criticising those who speak for them we believe to be the very opposite of a public good. This is why GLP is supporting the case.”

The tribunal continues on Tuesday (8 November), when LGB Alliance will argue its case.