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Wednesday 20 September 2017

Sex change spouses complicate new law

Fionnan Sheahan Political Editor

THE Government is trying to figure out what to do in a case where a married person gets a sex change.

The Coalition has approved a draft of a new law to recognise transgender people and issue them with birth certificates in their new gender.

The new legislation arises from the case of Lydia Foy (pictured), a transgender woman who successfully took the first legal case in Ireland seeking a new birth certificate and legal recognition in her female gender.

The issue of recognition of same-sex marriages is going to come to the forefront in the autumn when the Government considers a recommendation of a constitutional think tank to have a referendum on gay marriage.

But an unexpected legal problem has arisen in this area around the complications that arise in a hypothetical case when a married person becomes transgender. The likely outcome would be a divorce, but it's not entirely clear. The matter is being referred to the Oireachtas Committee on Social Affairs to consider.

The issue does not arise in the case of Ms Foy, but could emerge in a subsequent case.

Ms Foy fought a 12-year court battle to have the Government recognise her gender. After undergoing sex reassignment surgery in 1992, she lost a High Court challenge to have her gender recognised on her birth certificate. However, she subsequently succeeded when the case came back before the court in 2007.

The Government subsequently agreed to progress the legal recognition of transexuals. She had applied to the Registrar of Births in March 1993 seeking a new birth certificate in her female gender.

Under the new legislation, the transgender person would be issued with a new birth certificate.

Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore said last weekend he did not expect there would be "any undue delay" in holding a referendum on gay marriage.

He said a referendum on multiple subjects – including gay marriage – could possibly be held next year. "One possibility might be to take a number of recommendations made by the Constitutional Convention and to hold a referendum on the same day," he said.

Mr Gilmore has described gay marriage as the civil rights issue of our generation – but some Fine Gael TDs are far less keen on holding a referendum on it. It comes after reports that the Government is considering holding the referendum without calling for a 'Yes' vote to avoid further alienating Fine Gael TDs.

Mr Gilmore has also left open this possibility.

Irish Independent

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