Trans rights activist is named on judging panel that will hear case of a Christian teaching assistant sacked for speaking out against gender identity lessons at primary schools
A trans rights campaigner who led calls to scrap women-only toilets is on a judging panel hearing the case of a Christian teaching assistant sacked for speaking out against lessons in which primary school children learn they can change gender.
Edward Lord, a well-known LGBT activist, has been chosen to advise a tribunal judge during an appeal by Kristie Higgs, who lost her job as a school pastoral assistant after sharing a petition on her Facebook page against extending sex and relationship education.
Lawyers for Mrs Higgs have applied for the 50-year-old to be removed from the panel amid concerns that she will not get a fair hearing when the case is heard in London next week.
Teaching assistant Kristie Higgs (pictured) was sacked after voicing concerns about teaching children they can change gender at a Church of England primary school attended by her nine-year-old son. Mrs Higgs has appealed this decision and will face a judging panel
Lord, who uses the pronouns ‘they, them and their’, is refusing to step down. A Liberal Democrat politician who identifies as ‘non-binary’, Lord has campaigned in favour of allowing transgender women to use female-only spaces.
As an elected member of the City of London Corporation, Lord was head of an equality committee that changed rules to allow transgender swimmers full access to Hampstead Heath’s ladies’ pond in 2019.
Lord has been vocal on Twitter about allowing trans women to use female-only spaces, yet attracted claims of hypocrisy when it emerged the activist was a Freemason, a men-only organisation.
Lord was awarded an OBE in 2013 and has sat as a magistrate in London since 2002 . They became a lay member on the employment tribunal circuit last year.
It is in that role that Lord will able to question witnesses and advise Tribunal Appeal Judge Mrs Justice Eady on whether Mrs Higgs, 45, was unfairly dismissed in 2018 by Farmor’s School in Fairford, Gloucestershire.
The mother-of-two was sacked after sharing concerns about lessons at the Church of England primary school attended by her nine-year-old son.
Critics had expressed alarm about the ‘No Outsiders’ anti-prejudice classes for pupils as young as four which provide teaching on gender identity through stories about a boy who wants to wear a dress and a book about a red crayon that discovers it is really blue.
Edward Lord, a well-known LGBT activist, who led calls to scrap women-only toilets, has been chosen to advise a tribunal judge. Lawyers for Mrs Higgs have applied for the 50-year-old to be removed from the panel amid concerns that she will not get a fair hearing when the case is heard in London next week
Ms Higgs insists her only motive was her view that her son was too young to understand what it means to change sex. As a practising Christian, this went against her beliefs.
During a six-hour disciplinary hearing that resulted in her dismissal, a school governor compared her posts to those of a ‘Nazi far-Right extremist’ and it emerged the school had also snooped on her emails.
Mrs Higgs launched an appeal after losing her claim of religious discrimination at a Bristol employment tribunal, which found she had been fairly dismissed because her views could be perceived as transphobic.
The appeal case was due to begin on Wednesday but may be delayed after lawyers from the Christian Legal Centre made a formal request for Lord to be removed from the panel.
Last night, Mrs Higgs said: ‘I am concerned that I will not get a fair hearing. Edward Lord has made many public statements that strongly oppose me and my Christian beliefs which are at the heart of my case.’
Andrea Williams, from the Christian Legal Centre, said the recusal of Lord was a ‘simple and reasonable request that helps avoid any whiff of a stitch-up’. But in an email to the court, Lord said: ‘Whilst I do have views on the topics at the heart of the case, and indeed have expressed some of those views publicly but in an entirely private capacity with no reference to my judicial office, I did not consider them grounds for recusal … When exercising judicial office, my decision-making follows the facts of a case and pertinent law and nothing else.’
A spokesperson for the judiciary said: ‘Judges cannot comment on ongoing proceedings. All judges take a judicial oath, which means they hear cases without fear or favour and find according to the law, personal views do not contribute in any way.’