A transgender parent ostracised from her strictly Orthodox Charedi community has successfully appealed a ruling that limited contact with her children to written correspondence four times a year. The Court of Appeal has today quashed the previous decision of the High Court that refused direct access, and remitted the matter back to the High Court which will now have to make a fresh decision regarding the level of contact. Humanists UK, which described the original ruling as ‘extremely sad’ given more general progress towards equal rights for transgender people, has welcomed the decision.
The previous ruling, handed down in February in a family court in Manchester, stated that the transgender parent, known as ‘J’, should not be given direct access to her children, in part because of the risk that ‘these children and their mother would be rejected by their community if the children were to have face-to-face contact with their father’. Justice Peter Jackson added, ‘I therefore conclude with real regret, knowing the pain that it must cause, that the father’s application for direct contact must be refused.’
The judges’ ruling in the appeal described this original decision as ‘surprising and disturbing’, and stated that it failed to properly acknowledge ‘whether the community likes it or not, that the father, whether transgender or not, is and always will be the children’s father and, as such, inescapably part of their lives, now, tomorrow and as long as they live’. Overturning the decision, the President of the Family Division Sir James Munby, Lady Justice Arden, and Lord Justice Singh noted the attitudes within the Charedi community towards LGBT people, stating that ‘Even secluded religious communities within society are not above the law of the land.’
Alison Ball QC, acting on behalf of the parent, similarly added: ‘This decision is one that will be welcomed not just by LGBT individuals living within small religious groups, but by the LGBT community in general. It sends a clear message that no religious community can operate on their own island but must conform to the law of the land.’
Humanists UK Education Campaigns Manager Jay Harman commented, ‘The fundamental rights of LGBT people to fair and equal treatment, and to respect, ought never to be undermined on account of religious intolerance or prejudice. Regrettably, that is what the original decision in this case served to do, so we are very pleased that it has now been overturned. We hope that J can now start to rebuild her relationship with her children, and we hope too that this ruling will embolden the judiciary to come down very hard on any future attempts by religious bigots to subvert individual freedom and the rule of law.’
For further comment or information please contact Humanists UK Campaigns Officer Rachel Taggart Ryan at firstname.lastname@example.org or on 0207 324 3060.
Read the full ruling: http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCA/Civ/2017/2164.html
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