LGB Alliance: Legal bid to strip anti-trans group’s charity status resumes

A white flag with LGB Alliance in black text

On Monday (7 November), a tribunal will resume to decide whether the LGB Alliance should retain its charity status.

The legal fight to overturn the Charity Commission’s April 2021 decision to register LGB Alliance as a charity is being spearheaded by trans children’s charity Mermaids, supported by LGBT+ Consortium, Gendered Intelligence, LGBT Foundation, TransActual and Good Law Project.

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.

The LGB Alliance claims to campaign for lesbian, gay and bisexual rights, but to date its work has been largely, if not wholly, focussed on opposing trans rights reforms.

Challenging the anti-trans group’s charity status, Mermaids has made the case that 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” – and therefore should have never been granted charitable status.

The tribunal heard evidence in support of Mermaids from Paul Roberts, CEO of LGBT Consortium, gay SNP MP John Nicolson, and Belinda Bell, the chair of Mermaids’ board of trustees.

All three told the tribunal that there was a vast chasm between what LGB Alliance claims to do – work for the human rights of LGB people – and the reality of what it the group does in practice.

Campaigning by LGB Alliance has included opposing Gender Recognition Act (GRA) reform, trans-inclusive education, and a ban on conversion therapy for trans people.

Roberts told the tribunal he believed that LGB Alliance had “deceived” the Charity Commission in presenting themselves as pro-LGB rather than anti-trans.

While LGB Alliance’s lawyer attempted to convince him that gender-affirming healthcare for young trans people amounted to “transing the gay away”, Roberts repeatedly told her that he disagreed, and insisted that LGB Alliance’s claims were not consistent with his “lived reality”, which was to see many trans people “flourishing” and living “happy, healthy lives”.

Nicolson described LGB Alliance as having an “obsession with genitalia” in a heated evidence session, telling the tribunal: “They appear to think about nothing else from the moment they get up in the morning until they go to bed at night.”

The MP ferociously defended plans for reform of the GRA, the law which governs how trans people can gain legal recognition of their gender, explaining: “The majority of lesbians do not feel that they will become less lesbian if this legislation passes.”

In her evidence session, Bell described the work vital work Mermaids does in supporting trans children and their families.

When LGB Alliance counsel Karon Monaghan KC told Bell that the anti-trans group believes children are being “locked in to treatment pathways”, and that lesbian girls may be coming out as trans because it is “easier”, Bell described the idea as “laughable”.

“The idea that girls would find transitioning easier is frankly close to laughable,” she said.

“Transition is a very serious and difficult thing to go through… I disagree that that would be a plausible thing.”

LGB Alliance thinks Stonewall and Mermaids will ‘get rid of gay people’, but also that gay children don’t exist

Defending its charity status, LGB Alliance called three witnesses to give evidence – the group’s two co-founders, Bev Jackson and Kate Harris, as well as LGB Alliance’s chair of trustees, Eileen Gallagher.

Both Jackson and Harris claimed that LGB Alliance did not campaign against trans rights, with Jackson insisting “it’s not about people who are transgender” and Harris telling the tribunal: “We have never campaigned against them, and we never will.”

Yet Harris went on to say in evidence: “The word lesbian is taken by us… we will not have it stolen from us. We will not be erased, and we will not have any man with a penis tell us he is a lesbian because he feels he is.”

She also spoke at length about the group’s “work” surrounding children, which has included blocking trans-inclusive education and affirmative healthcare for trans youth.

But Harris said that LGB Alliance aimed to “show children that being LGB is a happy thing, not to help LGB children because I don’t believe LGB children exist”.

Jackson told the tribunal that affirmative trans healthcare could result in gay people being “transed”, and added: “I’m not suggesting that Mermaids or Stonewall are intentionally trying to get rid of gay people, but I do believe it is an unintended consequence of promoting universal gender identity.

Gallagher, who joined LGB Alliance as chair of trustees in May 2021 when the group was already registered as a charity, said in evidence that her role involved “making sure it fulfilled its charitable objects”.

But when questioned on her witness statement, Gallagher was forced to provide excuses for why LGB Alliance projects aimed specifically at LGB people – for example a helpline, a film about gay history for Queen Elizabeth II’s 2022 jubilee, and a report of the experiences of LGB NHS workers – had failed to materialise.

These excuses included “we really have no staff and no resources”, and “because we’ve been labelled as a hate group, it’s very hard to get people to give us money”.

“Trust me,” Gallagher added, “we have really good intentions and we will get round to it.”

The tribunal returns to London’s General Regulatory Chamber on 7 and 8 November.