Labour and SNP politicians quit over trans rights row

Councillor Gregor Murray (left) and Lord Lewis Moonie have quit their respective parties. Pictures: Twitter/Facebook
Councillor Gregor Murray (left) and Lord Lewis Moonie have quit their respective parties. Pictures: Twitter/Facebook
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Two politicians have quit their parties in the last 24 hours in the growing row over trans rights.

A Scottish peer has left Labour after allegations of transphobia were made against him, while "institutional transphobia" has prompted an SNP councillor to resign from his party.

Lord Lewis Moonie, who represented Kirkcaldy as an MP for 18 years, announced last night he had left the Labour Party, before facing a disciplinary hearing about a sharing an image which supported violence against transwomen.

The 72-year-old psychiatrist had also been accused of sharing other controversial social media posts relating to transgender issues which resulted in his party membership being suspended.

“I’ve resigned from the Labour Party today,” he wrote. “I was accused of transphobia by the usual suspects, and told I must attend a disciplinary hearing. My membership suspended too.

“Not really up to fighting it so I’ve saved them the trouble."

READ MORE: University debate on women's rights branded 'transphobic'

READ MORE: Trans councillor quits role after ‘vicious string of abuse’

He has said that single-sex spaces such as toilets and changing areas, protected under the Equality Act 2010, should be not be open to people who “self-identify” as women and has said women could be vulnerable to attack if single-sex spaces are not protected.

“Transpeople have the same rights as anyone else. What they don’t have is the right to force me to believe they acquire the sex they aspire to, nor to invade single sex spaces protected by the Equality Act 2010 unless they have undergone reassignment” he has tweeted.

But the image which led to his membership suspension was of a car bumper sticker, suggesting that if a transwoman was found in women's toilets along with that person's daughter, then the next toilet they "were gonna need" would be the disabled one.

A Labour source had previously said after concerns were raised that Lord Moonie "had been reminded of the high standards expected of Labour peers. The matter has been referred to the Lords Chief Whip to reinforce this reminder to Lord Moonie.”

But a spokesperson for LGBT Labour said: “This behaviour is unacceptable from any member of the Labour party but especially from a Labour peer. We work day in, day out to ensure that Labour is leading on trans rights in the UK and we need to ensure that transphobia is eradicated from our party, politics and our society.”

However, a senior Scottish Labour party source said that Lord Moonie's resignation was "grim" and that he had been "very strong" on women's rights.

Lord Moonie of Bennochy, who also served as a Labour councillor in Fife in the early 1980s, said he would "continue to fight for women's rights" and will now sit as a cross-bencher in the House of Lords. It is understood he will still host a meeting today in the Lords for the group Stand Up For Women on the risks of drugs in transgender adolescents.

Meanwhile, Dundee Councillor Gregor Murray, who was today suspended from his duties by the Standards Commissioner for two months, has quit the SNP alleging the party is institutionally transphobic.

The Standards Commission for Scotland said Murray - Scotland's only openly trans councillor - used "terms that were insulting and offensive during twitter exchanges with a member of the public, on gender related issues, in January and July last year and, as such, behaved in a disrespectful manner".

Panel chairwoman Ashleigh Dunn said: "The decision of the hearing panel is to suspend for a period of two months, the respondent, Councillor Murray's entitlement to attend all meetings of Dundee City Council and any committee or sub-committee thereof, with effect from and including, Monday, May 20 2019.

"The decision is made in terms of section 19(1)(c) of the Ethical Standards in Public Life etc. (Scotland) Act 2000."

The panel added: "The panel further determined that the councillor's use of the 'c' word in a public forum such as a tweet was highly offensive and inappropriate. The panel found the councillor's behaviour amounted to a contravention of the councillors code of conduct."

According to reports in today's Courier newspaper, Cllr Murray, who has publicly clashed with SNP MSP Joan McAlpine over trans rights, said he was leaving the SNP after 18 years because “as a trans person, I do not feel welcome, or safe within the party’s structure."

The Cllr said: “For the past year, I have had absolutely no support from the party HQ while fighting a series of overwhelmingly vexatious and scurrilous complaints.

"They have been completely derelict in their duty of care towards me, and have not afforded me the same support as others in similar positions. I have been left entirely out of my depth dealing with legal matters I do not understand.”

Today Ms McAlpine, who had previously raised a complaint against Cllr Murray with the SNP, said: "I welcome the Commissioner's ruling and note that Gregor Murray jumped before being pushed.

"Councillor Murray's abuse [of women] is not excused by a self-declared non-binary identity. Misogyny is misogyny no matter what pronouns you use."

Ms McAlpine also welcomed the panel's judgement that the councillor had abused the complainer by referring to her as a TERF (which stands for ‘trans-exclusionary radical feminist’).

"I welcome the Commissioner's ruling that TERF is an insult," she said. "It is a sexist term used to silence women asking reasonable questions about the wisdom of allowing any male to declare himself legally female without safeguards, medical treatment or psychological assessment. It is not transphobic to ask these questions."

However in a statement responding to the Standards Commissioner's ruling, Gregor Murray pledged to take legal advice “as to what my next steps are, for when my health permits”.

The councillor said: “I am severely disappointed in the decision made today by the Standards Commission, which I believe to be a miscarriage of justice.

“I entirely accept that it is not appropriate for me to swear – I have apologised for this on numerous occasions, and have already accepted sanctions for doing so. I am also extremely worried by the precedent they have set that TERF is an offensive term.”

The councillor added: “The situation for trans people in Scotland right now is awful, and for a hearing to conclude that the victims here are the anti-trans campaigners flies in the face of all interpretations of justice and fairness. We have a problem in Scotland where trans people will not put themselves forward for elected positions. This decision today makes that situation worse.

“This complaint has been going on for over ten months now, and I am sad that this is not the end of it.”

An SNP spokesman said: “We’re sorry that Gregor feels this way, but cannot agree with the claims being made. The SNP has a proud record in advancing Scotland’s reputation as one of the most progressive countries in Europe in terms of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex equality.”