*not the new logo.
A law firm has ended its membership of a diversity scheme run by Stonewall citing concerns over its recent actions, saying it can no longer support the LGBTQ+ charity.
Moon Beever, based in Gray's Inn and specialising in insolvency work, was one of 77 firms signed up to Stonewall's Diversity Champions scheme.
But Frances Coulson, the firm's Senior Partner, told RollOnFriday that Moon Beever had relinquished its membership.
"After some disquiet about recent actions of Stonewall we have decided to exit the Stonewall Diversity Programme", she said.
"This in no way detracts from our commitment to diversity and equality, but in common with the Equality and Human Rights Commission and Government Departments we no longer feel that we can support Stonewall", said Coulson.
Public bodies including the EHRC, the DVLA, the Ministry of Housing and Acas have all pulled out of the scheme, and Equalities Minister Liz Truss has recommended that all Government departments should withdraw.
At least one other firm has also pulled out of the Diversity Champion programme, RollOnFriday understands, however it did not respond to a request for comment.
Concerns from erstwhile supporters over Stonewall's direction have grown since it pivoted to encompass transgender issues in 2015, when it began campaigning for male-bodied people to be able to self-identify as women, and for the abolition of exemptions which can currently prevent males from using single sex female spaces such as women's changing rooms, refuges, hostels and prisons.
The charity's position has faced opposition from 'gender critical' feminists and their allies who argue that biological sex should take precedence over people's self-determined 'gender identity', and that women should be able to define and organise themselves based on their sex.
Two of Stonewall's founders, Simon Fanshawe and Matthew Parris, this week accused the charity of losing its way. "The lesbians, gays and bisexuals (it used, after all, to be just ‘LGB’ before it became ‘LGBTQ+’) that Stonewall was set up to defend have been all but abandoned by an organisation now pushing a divisive dogma", said Fanshawe.
"Gathering all of us under one big ‘LGBT’ umbrella failed to recognise that sexual orientation and gender identity are two entirely different things - and that unlike the battles we fought 30 years ago, in this instance the rights of one section of this community can directly impact on the rights of another", he said.
Parris said Stonewall had become "tangled up in the trans issue" and "cornered into an extremist stance".
Critics accuse the charity of seeking to go beyond statute and impose 'Stonewall Law' by influencing Diversity Champions' internal policies, which they say could create legal issues.
Essex University apologised in May for cancelling speaking invitations for two lecturers accused of being transphobic due to their gender critical views. An independent report produced for the Diversity Champion by barrister Akua Reindorf found that the university's transgender policy was "misleading", "founded on an erroneous understanding of the law" and "states the law as Stonewall would prefer it to be, rather than the law as it is". Reindorf advised the university to reconsider its relationship with Stonewall.
And a lesbian barrister, Allison Bailey, is suing Stonewall for allegedly putting pressure on her chambers to sanction her after she expressed misgivings about Stonewall's aims and influence. In March, a judge rejected Stonewall's application to throw out the case and concluded that it had urged Garden Court Chambers, a Diversity Champion, to take punitive action against Bailey for her views.
But in an interview with the BBC, Stonewall head Nancy Kelley defended the charity against accusations that it facilitated an atmosphere in which women were stigmatised or risked losing their jobs for questioning transgender issues. Stating that freedom of speech was "not without limit", she compared gender critical beliefs to anti-Semitism.
"With all beliefs including controversial beliefs there is a right to express those beliefs publicly and where they're harmful or damaging - whether it's anti-Semitic beliefs, gender critical beliefs, beliefs about disability - we have legal systems that are put in place for people who are harmed by that", said Kelley.
Amid increasing scrutiny of the benefits of participation, at the time of going to press 24 of the 77 Diversity Champion law firms contacted by RollOnFriday confirmed that they remained members of the scheme, while nine, including Travers Smith, Pinsent Masons, Gateley, Cleary Gottlieb, and Baker McKenzie, said they intended to renew their memberships.
A spokesperson for Simmons & Simmons voiced its approval of the charity's work, stating said, "as a longstanding Stonewall Diversity Champion, we have received valuable support from Stonewall in advancing some of our LGBT+ initiatives".
The Solicitors Regulation Authority declined to clarify whether or not it was still a Diversity Champion. A Law Society spokesperson said, “Like most organisations the Law Society regularly reviews its memberships as they come up for renewal and we will do this with Stonewall as usual”.
A Stonewall spokesperson said, "As with every membership programme, organisations come and go depending on what works best for them at the time, and it’s great that organisations can continue this important work on their own".
"We are pleased to say that our Diversity Champions programme is continuing to grow and take on new members. This year alone, from 1 June 2020 to 1 June 2021, our membership grew by thirty organisations in total", they said. "We are very proud of the work we’re doing with more than 850 organisations to help create inclusive working environments for their lesbian, gay, bi, trans and queer staff".
Note: An earlier version of the story stated that the Law Society declined to comment, when in fact its spokesperson was out of the office and did not receive the request.