Equalities minster Liz Truss has received hundreds of messages of support on social media following a report in The Times that she is pushing for all government departments to withdraw from the Stonewall Diversity Champions Scheme. Many of those heaping praise on the minister are lesbian feminists, with many expressing surprise that support for women’s rights has come from a high-profile Conservative.
Carol Angharad, spokeswoman for Lesbian Labour said:
“This has been a long time coming but we support Liz Truss on this important issue and the stand she has taken on the unwarranted influence of Stonewall across Government. We wish the Labour Party would wake up and sever its own connections to Stonewall and be open to debate.”
Reports suggest Truss shares the concerns raised over the scheme’s value for money, though the minister has also been outspoken about the impact of ‘trans-inclusion’ on existing sex-based rights.
Truss’ comments follow the publication of the Reindorf Report into the no-platforming of feminist academics at University of Essex. The scathing report noted that a “culture of fear” had gripped the institution, and that the university had adopted policies which reflected “the law as Stonewall would prefer it to be, rather than the law as it is.” Stonewall stand accused of offering incorrect legal advice that has made workplaces hostile environments for those with ‘gender critical’ beliefs.
Professor Jo Phoenix was one of the academics targeted. As a lesbian, Professor Phoenix feels let-down by Stonewall.
“My real sadness is that Stonewall are now positioning themselves as the only organisation that represents the full rainbow of gender and sexuality minority groups. Hence, they can claim that any attack on Stonewall is an attack on the community. I was once proud of Stonewall. Not any more.”
Several organisations and bodies, including the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) and the employment dispute service Acas, have withdrawn “for cost reasons”. Others that have followed suit include DVLA, House of Commons, Department for Housing and Local Government and multiple police forces.
Breaking what had been an audible silence from other established politicians with regard to Stonewall, some have publicly offered their support. Dr Liam Fox MP tweeted:
“Liz Truss is quite right to urge Government departments to quit @stonewalluk employment scheme. No place for them given their recent attitudes and behaviour.”
At its height there were around 850 Diversity Champion Members, including 250 Government departments and public bodies, 120 universities and 31 police forces. Fees are estimated to start at around £2,500 per annum, in exchange employers are offered guidance on gender neutral spaces, pronouns and trans inclusion and are ranked on the charity’s Workplace Equality Index.
Maya Forstater is co-founder of Sex Matters, a group established to safeguard human rights by showing “sex matters in rules, laws, policies, language and culture.” Forstater told Lesbian and Gay News:
“Stonewall’s diversity champions scheme is now a liability. It no longer signals tolerance and harmony in the workplace. Membership of the scheme has become a reputational and legal risk. Employers don’t need to pay Stonewall protection money any more”
In a BBC interview published last Saturday Stonewall’s chief executive Nancy Kelley compared holding “gender critical” beliefs to anti-Semitism. Ms Kelley told the BBC: “With all beliefs including controversial beliefs there is a right to express those beliefs publicly and where they’re harmful or damaging – whether it’s anti-Semitic beliefs, gender critical beliefs, beliefs about disability – we have legal systems that are put in place for people who are harmed by that.”
The EHRC who recently left the Diversity Champion scheme, have stated that holding gender critical beliefs “does not have an impact on our commitment to uphold the rights of transgender people”. EHRC chair Lady Falkner has stated it is “entirely reasonable” for people to hold gender critical beliefs.
Last week Stonewall celebrated it’s 32nd birthday with a rebrand. It seems the new logo, strapline and website have done little to deflect attention from the missteps of what is still, for now, Europe’s largest LGBT charity.