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Controversial “anti-trans” group retains charity status after legal challenge

This news post is 8 months old

A decision was published following a legal appeal by another charity. 

A transgender children’s charity has lost its bid to have charitable status stripped from a controversial charity following a legal judgement. 

In a decision, published on Thursday, July 6, tribunal judges Lynn Griffin and Joseph Neville rejected a challenge last year by the organisation Mermaids which questioned the decision by the Charity Commission to award charitable status to the LGB Alliance. 

In June 2021, Mermaids, supported by a coalition of LGBT+ organisations, argued that the LGB Alliance shouldn’t be recognised as a charity because “it was focused on hostile anti-trans activism” and “not on the promotion of lesbian, gay and bisexual rights”.

In 2022 the trangender children’s charity followed this decision with a legal challenge, formally questioning the awarding of charitable status. 

The hearing took place over seven days in September and November 2022. 

Mermaids argued that the alliance doesn’t truly serve lesbian, gay or bisexual people, as it claims to. The charity added that the LGB Alliance also did not comply with two key criteria for charitable status under the Charities Act 2011.

The LGB Alliance has been the subject of mounting criticism, with claims it espouses anti-trans views. The charity has consistently opposed gender recognition reform and other advancements to trans rights across the UK since forming in 2019.

However, the tribunal ruled that Mermaids has no legal standing to bring forward the case. 

While a request was made by both Mermaids and the LGB Alliance to the judges to offer a hypothetical conclusion on the latter’s charitable status, the judges declined to do so. 

They said: “We are conscious that this case was regarded by some as being about the rights of gender diverse people or about the rights of gay, lesbian and bisexual people, but it is not; the focus of this decision is upon a small part of the Charities Act 2011 and what it means, applied in the circumstances of this case.”

Mermaids has now said it is taking legal advice on whether it can further appeal the decision. 

During tribunal hearings a number of high-profile figures argued that the LGB Alliance should not be awarded charitable status. These included representatives from LGBTQ+ umbrella group Consortium and Mermaids’ board of trustees. 

Gay SNP MP John Nicolson also argued that the Alliance should not be allowed to have charitable status, writing on social media following the decision: “Judges were damning about the sinister Alliance and its activities including online abuse.”

Following the judgement, Mermaids said there was now a “huge question mark” over the LGB Alliance’s future as a charity. 

In a statement, Mermaids wrote: “We argued that LGB Alliance (LGBA) shouldn’t be recognised as a charity because it was focused on hostile anti-trans activism and not (as it claimed) on the promotion of lesbian, gay and bisexual rights. 

“Their decision is that Mermaids doesn’t have legal standing to bring the appeal. Standing in this context is not well-defined, and we always knew this was a complex aspect of the case.

“Because they found against us on standing, the Tribunal didn’t have to rule on the main issue in the appeal – namely whether or not LGBA should have been registered as a charity to begin with. 

“But the two judges indicated that they had given that question careful consideration and had been split on the answer. That is, one of the judges agreed with us that LGBA should not have been registered as a charity, and one disagreed. 

“We don’t know the details of their reasoning, but we think that is a really significant outcome. Had we been found to have standing, there is a chance that the tie would have been resolved in our favour and we would have won the case.

“We are glad to have been able to shine a light on the harmful nature of LGBA’s activities and the need for ongoing scrutiny, and we are pleased that one of the judges accepted our evidence that LGBA should never have been registered as a charity. But we are disappointed that the Tribunal wasn’t able to go further.

“If we don’t meet the test for standing in this case, it is hard to imagine that anyone could have done. In effect, that means that the decision to register LGBA as a charity cannot be challenged by a third party, even though the judgement confirms that there are serious doubts over whether LGBA should have charitable status.”

The LGB Alliance responded by describing the decision as “historic”, with Kate Barker, Chief Executive Officer of LGB Alliance, adding: “We are absolutely delighted with this judgement and with the news that we will retain our charitable status.

“Two years ago, we were clear that Mermaids had no standing to challenge our registration and today the tribunal has confirmed that we were correct.

“Whilst this is a battle we did not seek, neither would we flee from it. But the cost to us and to our supporters has been huge. 

“This case did, however, provide a welcome opportunity to talk about our work in a public forum and we hope that the era of ‘no debate’ is over.”

A Charity Commission spokesperson added: “We welcome this judgement. As the judges confirm, it is not the Charity Commission’s role to regulate public debate on sensitive issues on which there are deeply held, sincere beliefs on all sides. Our role is to apply the law, and we consider that we did so in registering LGB Alliance as a charity.

“All charities, ultimately, must deliver on their purposes for the public benefit. We understand both charities hold opposing views, but when engaging in public debate and campaigning, they should do so with respect and tolerance. Demonising and undermining those who think differently is not acceptable behaviour from any charity on our register.”



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7 months ago

Seems a bit one sided in favour of Mermaids

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