The latest round of amendments to the Lords report stage of the bill are out, including government amendments which are almost certain to pass. There is nothing on the spousal veto yet which is not a good sign.
What has been included is reintroduction of the old Gender Recognition “Fast Track” process. As originally enacted back in 2004, this allowed people who had transitioned for a long time (6 years) an easier route to getting recognition. Rather than needing two reports from doctors, you only need one – either a diagnosis of gender dysphoria or evidence that you’ve had surgery to alter “sexual characteristics”. It was particularly important to those who transitioned many years prior but whose doctors were no longer practicing, meaning they could not get proper medical reports. It was however time-limited to applications for two years following the passage of the bill.
The gotcha with the reintroduced version is that you have to be married to take advantage of this. It doesn’t matter when you get married, so you could get married specifically for the purpose of getting Gender Recognition, as long as you transitioned six years ago. I can actually see this happening in some cases, it’s not just theoretical, as people get married for immigration reasons already.
If your partner has died before the bill passes or your marriage survived transition but you divorced later for other reasons you’re also out of luck and would have to use the standard process. Unless you remarry.
One could argue that this is actually incompatible with the Human Rights Act as it discriminates against single, divorced and widowed people, but I don’t know if such a claim would stand up in court. If anyone has about quarter of a million pounds to spare and wants a fast-track GRC, you could probably find out by taking this all the way to the European Court of Human Rights.
The six years requirement for a fast-track GRC is also bizarre. Firstly, it’s not six years full time, it’s six years full time prior to the passage of the act. So if you’re currently five and a half years post-transition you may be out of luck.
Secondly, and this is the most objectionable part, the spousal veto is explicitly included. So you can have married someone and stayed with them for six years post-transition or even married/civil partnered them after they transitioned, and the government is still asking you for permission for them to get legal recognition.
Whatever the actual intent, that just comes across as a deliberate attempt to be spiteful by the government.
It seems that the civil service spends much of it’s time trying to figure out ways of limiting any rights granted to trans folk as much as possible. The law in this country would be in a much better state if it spent that effort working towards equality instead.
Looking at the specific requirements, the reintroduced version is broadly similar to the original. The surgical requirement as an alternative to a diagnosis of gender dysphoria is somewhat genital essentialist and a concern for those who can’t undergo surgery for medical reasons or would prefer not to, but in line with how thinking was a decade ago. If six years full time on it’s own isn’t enough to convince the government you are serious about your gender, I don’t know what is!
On the flip side, this is possibly good news for some of those with intersex conditions, given no diagnosis of gender dysphoria is needed and the nature, timing or consent as to surgery isn’t specified. I do not know if the Gender Recognition Panel was ever asked to consider such a case under the old fast-track rules, so I can’t guess if they’d grant such recognition but the law suggests they should – it states the panel “must grant the application” if they are happy the applicant has “undergone surgical treatment for the purpose of “modifying sexual characteristics”.
PS As a reminder, you can write to Baroness Stowell in support of ending the Spousal Veto. The Coalition for Equal Marriage have also produced this handy form you can use to register your views.