AN ally of JK Rowling who lost her job after tweeting that “male people are not women” has won a landmark employment case.

The victory for Maya Forstater, who was also backed  by SNP MP Joanna Cherry QC, means people with ‘gender critical’ beliefs must not be sacked simply for holding them.

However, they cannot express them in a way that discriminates against trans people.

The tribunal acknowledged "some trans people will be disappointed" by its conclusion, but rejected a claim it would lead to a "two-tier system between natal women and trans women, with trans women fearing that it will give licence to peope seeking to harass them".

Ms Forstater said she was "delighted to have been vindicated", adding: "I'm proud of the role I've played in clarifying the law and encouraging more people to speak up".

However her former employer said the decision was "a step backwards for inclusivity and equality for all", and it was considering its legal options. 

However Ms Cherry said the decision should end discrimination against academics, trade unionists and others like herself who had been bullied and threatened because of their beliefs.

Ms Rowling also retweeted Ms Forstater's response.

The decision comes just a day after student Lisa Keogh was cleared of wrongdoing for saying women have vaginas after an investigation by Abertay University.

READ MORE: Abertay University student Lisa Keogh cleared after being investigated for saying women have vaginas

Ms Forstater, 47, from St Albans in Hertfordshire, was a tax expert at the Centre for Gobal Deveolpment thinktank until losing her job in March 2019 after posting tweets opposing potential reforms to the Gender Recognition Act.

A believer in the sex-based rights, she believes sex is immutable and should not be conflated with gender.

In tweets sent in 2018, she argued men cannot transition biologically into a new sex, whatever gender they applied to themselves.

“I don’t think being a woman/female is a matter of identity or womanly feelings,” she said in one post.

“What I am so surprised at is that smart people who I admire ... are tying themselves in knots to avoid saying the truth that men cannot change into women,” she added. 

Her social media remarks were labelled "transphobic" and work colleagues complained about her, and her visiting felllowship with the thinktank was not renewed. 

She took her case to an employment tribunal on the grounds she had been discriminated against because of her beliefs.

Employment judge James Tayler dismissed her case in December 2019, saying she was “absolutist in her view of sex” and it was “not worthy of respect in a democractic society”.

He said she was not entitled to ignore the “enormous pain that can be caused by misgendering”.

Ms Rowling condemned the original judgment as forcing women out of their jobs “for stating sex is real” and promoted the #IStandWithMaya, leading to a backlash against the Harry Potter author.

Ms Forstater then appealed, and a second hearing took place in April this year.

Significantly, the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) intervened, suggesting it thought her beliefs were protected under equal rights legisation.

Employment law is a reserved issue and applies UK-wide.

In the judgment in London today, the honourable Mr Justice Choudry, said the original tribunal erred in its decision.

He said that although Ms Fostater's beliefs were "offensive to some" and could potentially "result in the harassment of trans persons in some circumstances", they did not seek to "destroy the rights of trans persons".

As such, her philosophical belief about sex and gender was itself protected under equalities law. 

The judgment was at pains to point out, however, that this did not mean such beliefs could be expressed in a way which infringed the rights of trans people.

It said: "This judgment does not mean that the Employment Appeal Tribunal [EAT] has expressed any view on the merits of either side of the transgender debate and nothing in it should be regarded as so doing.

"This judgment does not mean that those with gender-critical beliefs can ‘misgender’ trans persons with impunity.

"The Claimant, like everyone else, will continue to be subject to the prohibitions on discrimination and harassment under the EqA [Equality Act 2010].

"Whether or not conduct in a given situation does amount to harassment or discrimination within the meaning of EqA will be for a tribunal to determine in a given case.

"This judgment does not mean that trans persons do not have the protections against discrimination and harassment conferred by the EqA. They do.

"This judgment does not mean that employers and service providers will not be able to provide a safe environment for trans persons."

READ MORE: SNP MP Joanna Cherry lends support to feminist Marion Millar after 'hate crime' charge

Ms Forstater's case will now be remitted to a freshly constituted tribunal to determine if her dismissal was "because of or related to" her protected belief.

Amanda Glassman, Chief Executive Officer of the Centre for Global Development Europe, said: "The decision is disappointing and surprising because we believe Judge Tayler got it right when he found this type of offensive speech causes harm to trans people, and therefore could not be protected under the Equality Act.

"Today’s decision is a step backwards for inclusivity and equality for all. We’re currently considering the various paths forward with our lawyers.”

Baroness Kishwer Falkner, Chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said: “Our courts and tribunals must continue to robustly protect freedom of religion or belief. 

“It is one of the cornerstones of a functioning democracy. Some may see the beliefs of others as questionable or controversial, but people must be free to hold them. 

“This is why this case is so important. It provides clarity that people are free to hold their beliefs and must not be discriminated against because of them even if others might find their beliefs offensive.

“There is a difference between holding a belief and how it is expressed. We are all responsible for what we say and do. 

“As the Appeal Tribunal made clear in its judgment, this decision does not mean that actions or comments based on such beliefs are free from consequences or should be left unchallenged.

“The right balance must be struck between how beliefs are expressed and the rights of others.”