Gender recognition Bill will drop ‘forced divorce’ clause
Brendan Howlin says people trapped in wrong identity endure torture
Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin has said people struggling to have their true gender recognised endure “torture” and the Government was seeking to “relieve that pain”. Photograph: Cyril Byrne
The Cabinet has approved a revamped Gender Recognition Bill after the so-called “forced divorce” clause in the original draft legislation was dropped following the same-sex marriage referendum.
The Bill was first published in December 2014 when same-sex marriage was constitutionally prohibited. It therefore meant married people who transitioned would effectively be required to divorce in order to have their new gender recognised.
Tánaiste Joan Burton secured Cabinet agreement on Wednesday to delete the provision in the Bill requiring applicants for gender recognition to be single.
Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin, speaking on his way into Government Buildings earlier, said people struggling to have their true gender recognised endure “torture” and the Government was seeking to “relieve that pain”.
“It’s a social issue that needs to be addressed. People trapped from birth in the wrong gender identity it must be a torture, I can only imagine the torture that that would provide for people,” Mr Howlin said.
“A fair-minded Government and a fair-minded people would seek to relieve that pain.”
The Bill is also being amended after consultation with the medical profession.
The requirement will be removed for a supporting statement from a psychiatrist or endocrinologist or that an applicant is transitioning or has transitioned to the applicant’s preferred gender.
The Bill will adopt a “self-declaration approach”, giving formal legal recognition to the preferred gender of transgender people through the issuing of a gender recognition certificate by the Department of Social Protection.
This will mean that the person’s preferred gender will be fully recognised by the State for all purposes, including in dealings with public bodies.
A new birth certificate can be issued to show the preferred gender and new name, if the person changes their name.
The Bill will provide for applications for gender recognition from 16 and 17 year olds. In such cases, a Court process will be required involving supporting medical statements before an application for a gender recognition certificate can be made.
According to the Department of Social Welfare: “The Bill contains these safeguards in order to balance the rights of such applicants with the need to protect their interests at a potentially vulnerable age.”