01/08/2018 12:12 BST

Freemasons To Allow Women Members – If They Joined As Men

Alternatives to the formal suit and tie have been allowed, including a “smart dark skirt and top”.

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The United Grand Lodge of England has been a men-only institution since it was founded in 1717 

The Freemasons are to allow women members for the first time, but only if they joined the secretive organisation as men.

The United Grand Lodge of England, founded in 1717, issued a guidance to its 200,000 members under its “gender reassignment policy” which says that new members must be male, but once admitted they can remain a member as a woman. Anyone who has transitioned to becoming a man may also apply.

Female members should still be greeted with the prefix “brother”. Alternatives to the formal suit and tie have been allowed, including a “smart dark skirt and top”.

The new policy says: “It is important that any situation involving gender reassignment of a Freemason is treated with the utmost compassion and sensitivity and that the individual is supported throughout the process.

“No candidate should be subjected to questions about their gender which could make them feel uncomfortable.”

The new policy was issued to lodges on July 17. According to the Times, a senior judge, who is a Freemason, was asked to look into the legal ramifications of gender reassignment and discrimination.

The Stonemasons are protected from legal accusations of gender discrimination based on their admissions criteria because they are recognised as a single-sex association. 

However, this status does not protect them from accusations of discrimination against current members.

Under the Gender Recognition Act 2004 and the Equality Act 2010 a man who has joined the Freemasons cannot be excluded after transitioning because gender reassignment is a protected right. 

The new guidance comes after it was revealed prominent freemason Edward Lord was overseeing a gender identity drive as part of his role as chair of the City of London’s establishment committee.

Lord, who identifies as non-binary and asks to be referred to by the pronoun “they”, was criticised for being a member of the male-only Freemasons.