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Welsh Assembly Member banned for criticising extreme transgender rights activism

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Carys Moseley reports that the Welsh Assembly has become the first legislature in the western world to ban an elected politician from speaking for criticising transgender identification. Gareth Bennett from UKIP criticised the UK government’s proposals to amend the Gender Recognition Act to make changing gender easier. His comments that transgender people ‘deviate from the norm’ were deemed hate speech by the Presiding Officer. This is an unprecedented attack on free speech in politics and on democracy and may act as a bar to office to those who deem transgenderism abnormal. There is a real need for politicians to show moral courage and wisdom in speaking out on this matter, and to listen to serious concerns about policy proposals.


The Welsh Assembly has become the first legislature in the western world to ban a politician from its chamber for being critical of transgender activism and self-identification of gender. Yesterday Gareth Bennett, UKIP Assembly Member for South Wales Central was banned by the Presiding Officer Elin Jones, Plaid Cymru Assembly Member for Ceredigion, from further debate in the Assembly in 2018 until he apologised. Whilst the Welsh government has no power to amend the Gender Recognition Act, it does have power over the NHS, education, and public toilets, to name three relevant policy areas affected, so this act of censorship is of real significance. All who are concerned about the ongoing march of transgender ideology through our institutions should watch this unfolding crisis closely.

On Wednesday 13th of December, Joyce Watson, a Labour Assembly Member asked that Mr Bennett be forced to apologise for ‘homophobic comments’made in the Assembly the previous day. Actually Mr Bennett had not referred explicitly to gay or lesbian people at all. He was critical of the current activism over transgender rights and the UK government’s proposals to make gender recognition easier. He refused to apologise for his comments, which the Presiding Officer deemed ‘particularly hateful to the transgender community’.

When Bennett was interviewed on ITV Wales, the interviewer kept on repeating the question ‘who are you to say?’ (whether people should identify as the opposite gender). This question was a problem; politicians are there to judge rightly, i.e. make good policy decisions for the welfare of all members of society. When Bennett argued that some men who identify as women could be dangerous, the interviewer replied ‘there are no examples...surely’. In fact there is a recent example from Wales; Lauren Jeska was found guilty of attempted murder of a UK Athletics official after a row over testosterone level samples, which are required of male-to-female transgender athletes competing with women. There are lots of other cases of dangerous offences by male-to-female transgender people internationally documented. See also this UK project. Nobody in public life has any excuse for studied naiveté or a sentimental attitude on these problems.  


A shocking undermining of free speech, democracy and truthfulness

Gareth Bennett was interviewed for BBC Wales Live on Wednesday night. In the same programme BBC journalist Arwyn Jones pointed out that although Assembly Members have been thrown out before for unacceptable speech, banning someone from speaking indefinetely until they apologise is unprecedented, though Bennett is still allowed to vote. The journalist queried what would happen if Bennett were to raise a question with the First Minister or choose to hold a debate. Would the Presiding Officer refuse to allow him to do that? In addition the question arises as to what happens if Bennett’s constituents ask him to ask questions in the chamber, as he is elected to represent them.

Although the Assembly will not meet now until the New Year, discussions between the two parties on this matter will continue over the Christmas period, which shows the seriousness of the problems that have arisen. The Presiding Officer’s overreaction was subjective, disproportionate and all too typical of those who enforce the concept of hate speech. Her role is equivalent to that of the Speaker of the House of Commons, and as such banning a politician from debate sets a dangerous trend, and undermines free speech and democracy. It is also really a snub to everyone else in Wales who has serious reservations about the direction that transgender policy has been taking in the UK. It is saying you cannot be a politician if you think transgenderism is abnormal, which probably rules out most of the population. This is a sinister state of affairs that is unprecedented and completely unacceptable.


The need for moral and political courage and wisdom

There are some points that need making about public debate on this issue. Gareth Bennett’s framing of the issue within a generalised complaint about the rights of minorities was unnecessary, counterproductive and did little to illuminate the real problems around transgenderism in society that have emerged as major topics of debate in the United Kingdom. It only mirrored the reasoning now deeply embedded in most political parties and government bodies, namely that being a member of a minority is in itself some sort of sign of victimhood or vulnerability or even moral innocence. Bennett had called for ‘a grown-up debate’. The debate we need is not about minorities versus majorities at all; it is about helping people live in reality versus being given the right to live in an imagined identity.  

The big challenge here is the need to have moral and political courage and wisdom to stand up as well as to know the issues well. I am personally aware of Welsh politicians who are profoundly concerned about the UK government’s proposals to make gender recognition easier. One of them, David TC Davies, the MP for Monmouth and convenor of the Welsh Affairs Committee in the House of Commons, organised a meeting for those concerned with the proposals to reform the Gender Recognition Act. He had the courage to challenge the the administration of hormones for children and teenagersin the House of Commons recently. Parliamentarians cheered him for that. My message to politicians and journalists across the UK would be: be like David TC Davies. Stop the virtue signalling, muster up some courage and take the problems seriously. Listen to those who are concerned and who are watching closely. The public good and your credibility and trustworthiness are on the line. 



Christian Concern: Why threats to free speech over sex and gender matter:

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