Debate over reform to the Equality Act

Our response to the recent parliamentary debate over reforms to the Equality Act 2010.

On Monday 12th June 2023, MPs from all parties met in Westminster to discuss two different petitions relating to the definition of 'sex' in the Equality Act 2010.

Signatories of the first petition are calling for The UK Government to exercise it's power under Section 23 of the Gender Recognition Act to modify the Equality Action 2010 by making it clear the characteristic of 'sex' means "biological sex and not 'sex as modified by a Gender Recognition Certificate'." This is a clear attempt to separate out the rights of trans, non-binary, intersex and gender-diverse people from the rights of cisgender people. The petition received 109,462 signatures.

The second petition called on the Government to commit to not amending the Equality Act's definition of sex to mean 'biological sex', rather than gender. The counter petition received 138,886 signatures.

MPs in support of both sides of the debate had the opportunity to put their concerns forward to government ministers, however, no vote on the definition of 'sex' in the Equality Act 2010 occurred during this debate. 

The debate comes just two months after the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) published a letter seemingly advocating in favour of amending the definition of sex to mean 'biological sex' in the Equality Act 2010.

We were pleased to see cross-party efforts from MPs standing against the proposed amendment, and in solidarity with trans rights.

As Labour MP Dame Angela Eagle DBE pointed out: "The attack on trans people's rights to exist and live with respect and dignity in an accepting society is designed as a wedge issue which will open up the others. In fact I was around when it happened before in the 1980s with the enactment of Section 28 which sought, successfully, to scapegoat LGBT+ young people and drive them into hiding. And we should not be contemplating doing it again."

Kirsty Blackman, SNP MP stated in the debate: "We've talked about biological sex a number of times. No one person has been able to explain what biological sex was."

Peter Gibson, Conservative MP: "We must not make it easier to exclude people and safer to discriminate against people who are part of one of the most vulnerable communities in society."

However, despite the call at the start of the debate to approach the topic with sensitivity and respect, we were also appalled to hear some MPs using discriminatory and transphobic language.

Mark Delacour, our Director of External Affairs said: "It is vital that our Government protects the hard-won rights of LGBTQ+ people, in-particular our trans, non-binary and gender-diverse communities. As some of the most vulnerable people in our society, our Government should be enhancing and advancing the rights of these communities as opposed to considering ways to reduce or remove them. 

"The rights of trans people continue to be threatened and challenged daily, as well as being inappropriately used as a political football by MPs. It is crucial that the UK Government re-commits to not removing legal protections for trans people, and maintaining our world-class legislation that protects us all from discrimination and harassment. 

"We call on the Government to act with sensitivity, compassion and humanity, with the human rights and dignity of our trans, non-binary and gender-diverse communities at the forefront of their actions and decisions."