Trans amendments to the Marriage (Same-sex Couples) Bill

A number of amendments for trans people have been submitted formally in parliament, but unless you’re a legal whiz with some spare time to hand it’s not immediately obvious what they are. So, here’s a quick guide to what the relevant ones do…

Amendment 4 – Prevent voiding of marriages with a trans person

At the moment, a spouse can have a marriage voided (As if it had never happened) by claiming they did not know that their partner had a gender recognition certificate at the time they married, and this amendment removes this. There is no similar provision covering, for example, religion or similar and creates a situation whereby a spouse who does know about their partner’s history later claims ignorance if their partner is not very publicly “out”.

Amendment 5 – Remove spousal veto of legal recognition of gender

Because a marriage would, under the existing system, need to be converted to or from a civil partnership on one partner transitioning, there is a requirement for an interim Gender Recognition Certificate to be issued and the existing partnership be annulled prior to full recognition of legal rights. This was done to prevent a spouse being forcibly re-entered into a new relationship (Civil partnership or Marriage) they didn’t want and could not get out of due to the one-year minimum term before divorce can be applied for in a new relationship.

This is no longer the case, but the bill did not reflect that fully. Instead, it allowed a partner to delay or potentially block someone getting full legal rights in their acquired gender by refusing to give consent, a situation that would also incur additional costs for the trans person by forcing them to use the interim GRC process.

The amendment levels the playing field by only issuing an interim GRC if both parties request it, rather than simply if the spouse refuses consent. (As it stands, it also causes an Interim GRC to be issued in the case of a civil partnership, because the current bill does not allow for mixed-sex civil partnerships)

It takes 2 years post-transition to get a GRC, so an unhappy spouse still has plenty of time to apply for divorce.

Amendment 6 is tidy-up related to amendment 5, removing clauses that are no longer relevant.

Amendment 7 – Restoration of lost marriages

This simply allows marriages that had to be annulled so that someone could get legal recognition to be reinstated as if they had never been broken. If you want to know more, Sarah wrote about this for the Huffington Post.

Amendment 8 – Reissue of marriage and birth certificates

The bill did not make reissue of marriage certificates explicit, but this amendment does. It allow allows birth certificates to be reissued, with consent of all concerned. (The other named parent if the child is under 16, otherwise the child themselves)

There is still more we’d like to get done (Fixing pensions issues and swapping gendered terms like husband/wife for gender-neutral and non-binary terms like partner) but time is limited! Hopefully they’ll get in too eventually.

Of course, tabling amendments doesn’t mean they will pass but it does mean we are well on the way.

Featured on Liberal Democrat VoiceAnd finally, many thanks to Dr Julian Huppert MP for his help getting the amendments tabled.

Gender Recognition Act administrivia: List of approved countries updated

Likely of interest to few people, but I try to get parliamentary business about Trans issues “out there” as it’s otherwise very poorly reported.

Following a Statutory Instrument committee yesterday, the list of “approved countries and territories” under the Gender Recognition Act has been updated for the first time since the act was passed in 2005. What this basically means is that if you have gender recognition in one of these countries, you can get a UK GRC without needing all the proof and paperwork.

The new list is here and the following countries have been added compared to the old list:

  • Croatia
  • Czech Republic
  • Liechtenstein
  • the Federal District of Mexico (One state within Mexico)
  • Singapore
  • South Korea
  • Uruguay
  • One country has been removed – Latvia, apparently due to a “change in case law” and Serbia and Montenegro has been replaced with just Serbia due to the break up of the country.

    Appearing on the list is not necessarily a good thing. The list indicates the there is what the UK government call a “proper assessment” as part of the gender recognition process – some countries don’t appear because their rules are considered laxer than ours. Latvia seems to be a good example of this as if the rough google translations are half way accurate, their current process appears to be too liberal and Trans-friendly for the UK Government.

Gender Recognition Act penalties

Because of all the Equality Act discussion detail recently, I’ve been thinking about other trans-related legislation. An interesting and not often talked about offence is under section 22 of the Gender Recognition Act 2004 which basically makes it illegal for anyone to “out” someone if they’ve found out by virtue of being an employer or similar. Although it’s a criminal offence, the penalties are quite mild: A “Level 5″ fine, which is up to £5,000. As an upper cap, that’s pretty mild given you could quite possibly maliciously destroy someone’s life.

I submitted a batch of Freedom of Information requests to various bodies: In England and Wales, the Crown Prosecution Service, for Scotland the Procurator Fiscal and Public Prosecution Service Northern Ireland.

Firstly, kudos to the Procurator Fiscal in Scotland – I had a reply in 48 hours, well less than the 20 days they need to reply in. That’s amazing and much to their credit.

As to the responses themselves:

…there are no charge codes relating to [the Act], so no cases have been reported relating to this Act… (Procurator Fiscal)

…no cases have been reported to the PPS since the introduction of the legislation… (Public Prosecution Service Northern Ireland)

…No offences under this Act/Section are recorded on the CPS Management Information System… (Crown Prosecution Service)

So it seems that it’s such a pointless offence that not only has nobody ever been convicted, but nobody has even been prosecuted… and there has never been a reported case to consider. Does anyone have a possible case they’d like to try to report?