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Monday 20 November 2017

People who have sex change to have new gender recognised by state

Lyndsey Telford

People who have had a sex change will have their new gender officially recognised by the State under new laws proposed by the Government.

If enacted, the legislation will give transgender individuals the right to a new birth certificate that reflects their changed sex, and the right to marry or enter a civil partnership in their acquired gender.


Social Protection Minister Joan Burton, who published the General Scheme of the Gender Recognition Bill 2013, confirmed all single transgender people over 18 will be eligible.


"Since becoming minister, I have engaged with the groups representing transgender people and I am very aware that the long-standing lack of legal recognition has caused on-going hurt as well as real practical difficulties," Ms Burton said.


"I believe that this bill will go a long way towards addressing those concerns. It again shows that this Government is prepared to resolve issues left unaddressed for far too long."


People who have had a sex change and are married are not provided for in the legislation, given the existing constitutional prohibition on same-sex marriage.


Ms Burton said the legislation would be revisited following a potential referendum on same-sex marriage in the coming years.


It is understood "a couple of hundred" people are currently waiting to have their sex change officially recognised by the State.


And the Government believes there could be around 50 further applications a year.


Ms Burton said the application process would be "fairly straightforward" and purely administrative, with applicants sending a statutory declaration to her department and a letter from the physician confirming their changed gender.


They will not be required to provide a medical history or confirmation of their diagnosis.


The minister said original recommendations in a report from the Gender Recognition Advisory Group (GRAG) were more complicated.


It suggested individuals apply to a specially-established expert panel, which would examine evidence and make decisions on individual cases.


"I know that there were real concerns about the role of an expert panel in validating applications and, as a result, I have removed the requirement for the expert panel," the minister said.


"The application process will now be administrative, which I believe will be a more streamlined and dignified process which protects all concerned and ensures that the registration process will be robust."


Ms Burton said she hopes to see the legislation come into force within the first half of 2014.


She added that she understands some married transgender people who are not provided for under the legislation may be disappointed.


But she insisted the laws could be widened if the Government holds a referendum on same-sex marriage - as was recommended by the Constitutional Convention in April - and it is passed by the public.


"A referendum on same-sex marriage, if approved by the public, would remove this obstacle and the legislation could be widened to include married people," Ms Burton added.


"Prior to such a referendum, there is no simple legislative solution to this issue that can be guaranteed to be constitutionally robust, and I want to legislate now for the majority of the people affected, who are single."

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