Rishi Sunak is expected to delay issuing transgender guidance for schools after the Attorney-General and Government lawyers warned that plans to rule out gender transition would be unlawful. The Times has the story.
A Whitehall source said that No. 10 and Kemi Badenoch, the Women and Equalities Minister, wanted the guidance to be hardened amid pressure from Tory MPs.
The draft guidance stated that children should be allowed to socially transition with the consent of their parents, meaning that they could choose another pronoun or name and wear the uniform of the opposite sex.
But the Government then commissioned legal advice from Victoria Prentis, the Attorney-General, about whether a ban on social transitioning in schools was possible. Last week she concluded that such a move would be unlawful and said that the Government would need to pass new legislation if it wanted to go further.
Sunak had committed himself to publishing the guidance by the end of this week, but the Times has been told that is unlikely given the Attorney-General’s advice. The Prime Minister is concerned about the “long-term implications” of allowing children to socially transition.
A Government source said: “We have consistently said that this is about protecting children, empowering parents, and supporting teachers and school leaders by providing guidance for them to implement. It’s a complex and sensitive area and it’s right we get it right. More information is needed about the long-term implications of allowing a child to act as though they are the opposite sex and the impact that may have on other children too.”
A Whitehall source said that No.10 and Badenoch had put forward a series of proposals to strengthen the guidance. The strongest — and a reflection of the Government’s concerns — was a blanket ban on social transitioning.
Social transitioning describes the process by which transgender children or adults adopt a name, pronouns, and gender expression, such as clothing and haircuts, that match their new gender identity.
Prentis said that a blanket ban would be unlawful because the Equality Act states that gender reassignment is a “protected characteristic”, regardless of age. She gave the same advice when ministers asked whether there could be a ban on social transitioning for primary school children.
Badenoch also wanted to include greater protection for free speech in the guidance, stating explicitly that teachers must not be “compelled” to address children by their chosen pronoun if they had a “good faith” objection.