MARRIED people who opt for a sex change will no longer be automatically obliged to divorce.
Social Protection Minister Joan Burton said that, provided the same-sex marriage referendum is carried next year, couples where one changes gender could opt to stay married.
She also said that people as young as 16 undergoing gender change would be entitled to change their birth certificate under the new Gender Recognition Bill 2014, expected to be cleared by the Cabinet within the next fortnight. The first draft of the law fixed the age-limit at 18, but campaigners' representations and an Oireachtas committee recommendation have led the minister to lower the limit to 16 provided parents give their consent.
On same-sex marriage for those who change gender, Ms Burton said that in many cases the gender alteration inevitably led to an end of the marriage.
"But some couples may choose to stay married – and provided Irish voters support same-sex marriage – they will soon be able to do that."
Ms Burton said the total number of people involved in gender change in Ireland was quite small, in or about 25 people per year.
She said there could be an initial backlog of applications for gender changes to birth certificates and other documentation.
Ms Burton said the preparation of the gender recognition law showed the effectiveness of the new system of experts aiding a committee of TDs and senators to scrutinise a draft bill.