National News

Trans equality organisation welcomes passing of the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill

Graham Robson December 22, 2022

Scottish Trans, the trans equality project of LGBTQ+ equality and human rights charity the Equality Network, has welcomed that MSPs have voted, by 86 votes to 39, to pass the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill in the final vote last month.

All the parties in the Scottish Parliament except the Conservatives committed to improve gender recognition law in their 2016 and 2021 Holyrood manifestos. The Scottish Government consulted publicly on the proposals in 2017, then published the bill and consulted again in 2019.

The Parliament’s Equalities, Human Rights and Civil Justice Committee consulted again in the spring and summer of this year, and heard oral evidence on the bill from 39 witnesses. Those included supporters and opponents of the legislation, and experts in matters raised about it, such as equality law, women’s services, young people, sport and prisons, and religious representatives. They also heard from the leader of the Irish Seanad, about experience with similar legislation passed there some years ago.

The Committee recommended that the Parliament approve the principles of the bill.

Over 300 amendments were then considered at stages 2 and 3 of the bill, and more than 80 of them, from MSPs of different parties, were agreed upon to address matters that had been raised in relation to the bill.

Vic Valentine, Manager of Scottish Trans, said “Trans people across Scotland today will be feeling pleased and relieved that this Bill has passed, after many years of difficult public debate that has often felt like people are talking about us, and not to us. The law that has passed today will mean that at important moments in their lives, like when starting a job or giving notice to be married, trans men and women will be able to show a birth certificate that reflects who they are.

“We all want to be able to live true to ourselves, and by voting for these simple but important changes to the existing process for trans people to be legally recognised, MSPs will improve trans men and women’s lives, by allowing them to live with the dignity and recognition that everyone deserves.”

Tim Hopkins, Director of the Equality Network, said: “We thank MSPs, from all parties, who supported this bill, and those who engaged constructively on amendments. This result follows others where the Scottish Parliament has carefully considered the evidence and then legislated for fairness and equality.

“The repeal of section 28 in 2000, and equal marriage in 2014, were passed by the Parliament with some fears and misunderstandings expressed at the time about the consequences. It quickly became clear in both cases that the negative consequences that some had predicted did not materialise, and now a very large majority support those changes. We are sure that the same will happen with this legislation.”

The bill amends the Gender Recognition Act 2004, which is the law that allows trans people to update the sex recorded on their birth certificate, to reflect how they live their lives, and provide them with legal recognition of who they are.

Whilst world-leading when passed, the 2004 law is now widely considered by trans people and equalities and human rights organisations as imposing a process that is difficult, demeaning, and falls well below international human rights standards.

The bill makes important changes to the law, that significantly improve the current process that trans people in Scotland must use to update their birth certificate. This includes moving to a process of statutory self-declaration for legal gender recognition, removing the need for a psychiatric diagnosis of gender dysphoria and other intrusive medical evidence reports about choices a person has made about their medical transition, reducing the age at which people can apply from 18 to 16 in line with wider Scots law on legal capacity, and reducing the time someone must have been permanently living in their gender before they can apply to update the sex on their birth certificate, from two years to three months (six months for 16 and 17 year olds).