Feminist conference to go ahead as lawyers overturn decision to cancel

The FiLiA conference, with speaker Joanna Cherry MP, had been criticised for lobbying against gender recognition reform.

Feminist conference supported by Joanna Cherry to go ahead as lawyers overturn decision to cancel in Glasgow STV News

A feminist conference cancelled when trans rights activists lobbied the venue will now go ahead after lawyers cited the Equality Act.

FiLiA, part of the Women’s Liberation Movement, branded the activists “anti-democratic” after the international conference was cancelled with 12 hours’ notice.

The conference is due to be held at Platform, in Glasgow city centre, and speakers include SNP rebel Joanna Cherry KC who had an Edinburgh Fringe show cancelled after concern from staff, which was then reinstated.

Guests from Afghanistan, Iran, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, were due to attend between October 13 and 15 to discuss female genital mutilation, forced marriage, coercive control and femicide.

More than 1,400 delegates were planned to attend, with 1,000 of them booking flights, the charity said.

However, concerns had been raised about FiLiA’s opposition to gender recognition reform and support for JK Rowling.

An anonymous campaign from Glasgow Trans Rally “pressurised” the venue to cancel, FiLiA said.

The group encouraged supporters to contact the venue to “show FiLiA they are not welcome in Glasgow”, aiming to “destabilise the conference and stand in solidarity with the trans community”.

However, solicitors managed to get it reinstated, and said the case of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, which overturned a ban at the SECC Hydro in Glasgow in 2022, was an example of protected characteristics in terms of the Equality Act 2010, namely, religion and philosophical belief.

The case was held at Glasgow Sheriff Court after the event was cancelled in 2020 due to concerns over the city’s reputation for inclusivity.

Cherry said women should be able to speak without “fear”, after she resorted to threatening legal action due to a similar situation with a venue.

Chief executive and co-founder of FiLiA, Lisa-Marie Taylor, said: “We were dismayed when we were informed by Platform at very short notice that they were not going to allow us into the venue.

“It was clear they had been pressurised by a group determined to undermine women’s rights and freedom of speech.

“The idea that so many women may have been shut out because of a small band of anti-democratic and anonymous campaigners was extremely distressing.

“We are very grateful to our legal team for acting so quickly.”

Cherry said: “I hope this case sends a very clear message to venues that they do not have to buckle when pressurised by misguided and anonymous activists hell-bent on undermining not only women, but the rule of law itself. The law is on their side.

“I stand in solidarity with FiLiA having myself been cancelled earlier in the year, only for me to take similar legal action and for The Stand to back down.

“I said at the time, I think something’s gone very wrong in Scotland’s civic space. Small groups of activists are now dictating who can speak and what can be discussed.

“The fight must go on to allow everyone to debate the issues freely without fear of being vilified and cancelled by a small minority.”

Solicitor David McKie, of Levy & McRae, said: “The Equality Act is very clear and is designed to prevent anyone being discriminated against on grounds of their beliefs. The law applies to all.

“The recent cases of Billy Graham Evangelistic Association against the SECC, and Joanna Cherry against The Stand Comedy Club, reinforced that principle.”

Glasgow Trans Rally is planning a demonstration outside the venue on Friday morning.

A statement posted on the organisation’s Instagram profile said: “The way that FiLiA’s transphobia operates is insidious.

“They deliberately veil their transphobia behind ‘feminist’ rhetoric in a way that is calculated, tactical and deceitful.

“FiLiA includes transphobia on their website in their zero tolerance list whilst simultaneously lobbying against gender recognition reform and inviting the likes of JK Rowling to speak at their conference.

“It is impossible to be opposing transphobia whilst taking these actions.”

Platform has been contacted for comment.

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