In a landmark case for transgender rights, a British employment tribunal has ruled that doctors may not use their Christian faith as an excuse to disregard trans people’s gender identities.
Disability assessor Dr. David Mackereth says he was discriminated against in his role at the Department of Works and Pensions (DWP) when he was suspended from his position after saying he would not use the correctly-gendered pronouns and honorifics for trans patients. His employers disagreed, arguing that his refusal to respect trans identities contravened equality law and could leave the DWP vulnerable to charges of harassment.
Mackareth frames the issue as one of anti-Christian discrimination, because of course he does. As he sees it:
Last year I was training to do medical assessments for the Department for Work and Pensions and, because of my Christian convictions, I felt I couldn’t use pronouns — the words ‘he’ and ‘she’ — in an arbitrary manner. I said that in good conscience, I couldn’t do that. The Department for Work and Pensions took some time to think about it and decided then that I wasn’t fit to do the job because of, I would say, my Christian convictions. So I am coming to court today because I want the right to practise medicine as a Christian doctor in the way that I always have.
Sources have as yet been unable to identify the Bible verses governing the correct usage of the English-language pronouns “he” and “she.”
Center manager James Owen disputes that account, telling the tribunal that Mackareth chose to leave his position when asked to respect the identities of trans clients:
I then asked the claimant if he would respect the customer’s wish to be referred to by their chosen sexuality and name, and would he convey that in his written report. The claimant categorically stated that he would not do that due to his beliefs, and he could not put that in a report as his conscience would not allow that… I understood his request not to continue working. At no point was David suspended from work.
The tribunal ruled that Mackareth’s deeply-held beliefs did not supersede trans patients’ right to have their identities respected:
A lack of belief in transgenderism and conscientious objection to transgenderism in our judgment are incompatible with human dignity and conflict with the fundamental rights of others… We found that his beliefs were likely to cause offence and have the effect of violating a transgender person’s dignity or creating a proscribed environment, or subjecting a transgender person to less favourable treatment.
In other words, being a Christian doctor did not give Mackareth the right to presume he knows a trans person’s identity better than they themselves do.
The decision acknowledged that Mackareth’s Christianity constituted a significant part of his identity that could, in theory, be cause for discrimination. However, they rejected the argument that his specific objections to transgender identities rose to that threshold “because of the narrowness of the issue they represent.”
Essentially, the tribunal’s judgment saw through the argument that Mackareth’s personal distaste for trans identities — which he called “delusional” — was a component of his Christian faith, rather than a refusal to respect others’ human dignity dressed up in the language of religion.
While British society and media are notorious amongst trans communities for virulent transphobia, this decision represents a glimmer of hope for trans people in Britain that, if nothing else, transphobes will be unable to hide their bigotry behind claims of religious persecution.
(Screenshot via YouTube. Thanks to Scott for the link)