A group of LGBTQ organisations in the UK are challenging the decision to grant charity status to an “anti-trans” group with links to the US Christian right.
The UK’s Charity Commission is facing a legal appeal from Mermaids, LGBT+ Foundation and other LGBTQ organisations, with support from the Good Law project, on its decision to grant the group LGB Alliance charitable status earlier this year.
In April, the Charity Commission released a statement stating that as LGB Alliance’s “purposes are to promote equality and diversity and human rights” it qualified for charitable status, which entitles it to tax exemptions on its income in the UK.
However, the LGBTQ organisations will argue that the LGB Alliance’s main goals are in opposition to transgender rights, and that its associated harms outweigh its alleged benefits.
The organisations cite a quote made by LGB Alliance’s director, Bev Jackson, in 2020: “We’re applying for charitable status and building an organisation to challenge the dominance of those who promote the damaging theory of gender identity.”
Organisations bringing the case say that, since the LGB Alliance’s launch, it has called for a “parliamentary investigation into Mermaids, lobbied the Equality and Human Rights Commission to open a statutory investigation into Stonewall, campaigned to stop LGBT charities from advising schools and government bodies on transgender rights, campaigned to deprive LGBT charities of funding and/or to divert their donations and grants”.
It is thought that while the appeal is ongoing, the LGB Alliance’s charity status will be suspended, meaning it will not be entitled to the tax benefits.
The appeal – which could take up to a year – is currently being crowdfunded, and has received over £8,000 of the £25,000 target since its launch today.
Jo Maugham, QC, director of the Good Law Project, told VICE World News: “No organisation whose raison d'etre is the persecution of a minority should have charitable status in a modern, progressive, pluralistic society. The rights of all groups need to be protected.”
“Whatever it calls itself,” he added, “the so-called LGB Alliance is an organisation that exists to oppose the rights and dignities of trans people, and we don’t think it should have charitable status.”
LGB Alliance was founded in 2019 by Bev Jackson and Kate Harris, in opposition to charity Stonewall’s support of trans rights. It has ben criticised for its exclusion of trans rights from its campaigning and its links to the Christian far-right. When granted charitable status in April, trans charity Mermaids called it a “divisive and polarising anti-trans campaign group”. On its website, LBG Alliance denies it is an anti-trans organisation. “We fully support trans people in their struggle, for dignity, respect and a life lived free from bigotry and fear,” it says.
Paul Roberts, CEO of LGBT+ Consortium, said: “Charity status is hard earned and should promote positive and inclusive change for those most marginalised in our communities. The decision to register LGB Alliance goes in the face of that and sows distrust in what it means to hold charitable status. They exist to oppose free, safe and empowered trans lives and, as LGBT+ organisations, we stand as one to ask the Tribunal to quash the Charity Commission’s decision.”
The Charity Commission declined to provide a comment regarding the recent challenge. At the time of its decision it said: “It is not the Commission’s role to make value judgements about the aims or ideas put forward by any organisation. Instead, its role is to decide whether an organisation’s purposes fall within the legal definition of charity.”
Kate Harris, director of LGB Alliance said: “It is disappointing to see well-funded groups with a joint annual income of £13.5 million try to remove our charitable status. LGB Alliance is a new charity run entirely by volunteers and funded by hundreds of individual donations.”
“We are committed to advancing the rights of lesbian, gay and bisexual people and are moving ahead with our important work,” they added. "LGB Alliance has confidence in the Charity Commission.”
Correction: This story originally said charity Stonewall was part of the legal appeal. This has now been corrected and updated.