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Last Updated: Thursday, 14 August, 2003, 14:45 GMT 15:45 UK
Transsexuals lose equality case
Saskia Cousins and Jayne Smith
The transsexuals claimed the landlord discriminated against them
Five male-to-female transsexuals have lost their claim for discrimination against a pub landlord who refused to serve them.

The group said John Gawthorp had thrown them out of the Red Lion pub in Thornby, Northamptonshire, after one of them used the ladies' toilets.

The group, backed in the civil action by the publicly-funded Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC), said the 53-year-old publican unfairly treated them on the grounds of their sex.

But in a judgement at Oxford County Court on Thursday morning, Judge Charles Harris QC disagreed.

We believe that trans people should have the same right as anyone else to go into a pub and enjoy a drink
Jeannie Drake, of the EOC
He ruled that the claimants, only one of whom had undergone a sex change at the time of the alleged offence in March last year, were perceived as men dressed as women.

The judge said the five were biologically men in law and said their actions upset some of the other customers.

Mr Gawthorp was within his rights to bar them, the judge said, adding: "The defendant was not in breach of his obligations.

"He was entitled to ask these customers to leave."

Daphne Lalor from Market Harborough, Nicki Collette and Mandy Brook from Leicstershire and Jayne Smith and Saskia Cousins from Northamptonshire sued the publican under sex discrimination laws. None of them was in court to hear the 33-point judgement.

'Great victory'

Speaking outside the court, Mr Gawthorp described the ruling as a "great victory".

He said he sympathised with the transsexuals but said that they also had to respect the feelings and sensitivities of others.

Delivering his ruling, which follows a two-day hearing at Northampton County Court last month, Judge Harris said it was significant that the claimants still had strong male characteristics.

This led Mr Gawthorp to perceive them as men dressed as women and that he could not, without asking, determine whether they were transsexuals or transvestites.

To have such a conversation would be "surreal not to say absurd", the judge said.

He appreciated that other female customers and their male companions might find it upsetting to find men in the ladies' toilets.

The claimants were men in law and Mr Gawthorp treated them as such.

Sign for toilets
The landlord said another customer had complained
Jeannie Drake, of the Equal Opportunities Commission, said: "This is a very disappointing decision.

"The EOC supported this test case because we believe that trans people should have the same right as anyone else to go into a pub and enjoy a drink.

"Trans people are protected against discrimination at work and in vocational training under the Sex Discrimination Act.

"The EOC wants to see that extended so that they have the same right to equal treatment when they are using everyday facilities and services."


SEE ALSO:
Publican 'wrong' over transsexuals
24 Jul 03  |  Northamptonshire
Pub discrimination denied
23 Jul 03  |  Northamptonshire
Transsexuals to sue pub
03 Jul 03  |  Northamptonshire
Transsexual fails in court bid
16 Jul 03  |  Nottinghamshire


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