Transgender legislation due within weeks
LEGISLATION TO provide for the legal recognition of transgender people will be put before the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Social Protection in coming weeks, Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton has said.
Speaking at the opening session of the fourth European Transgender Council meeting in Dublin yesterday, she said enacting such legislation was a priority for her, although she was unable to give assurances on a number of key issues to transgender people.
Transgender delegates from across Europe are in Dublin for the council meeting, which will continue over the weekend and is hosted by the Transgender Equality Network Ireland.
It is 15 years since the Free Legal Advice Centres (Flac) issued legal proceedings to assert the right of transgender woman Lydia Foy to legal recognition of her gender. Though the High Court ruled against her in 2002, it ruled in her favour in new proceedings in 2007.
Michael Farrell, senior solicitor with Flac, who led Ms Foy’s case, said it was was “unacceptable” that Ireland remained the only country in Europe where there was no legal recognition of transgender people.
Legislating for recognition of transgender people was “not an option for the Irish Government”, he said, given its acceptance in 2010 that it was in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights.
“The jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights is clear and unambiguous. Trans people are legally entitled to recognition in their own gender,” he said.
The absence of such legislation means transgender people cannot have birth certificates reissued to indicate their true gender.
Ms Burton said her legal section had received guidance from the Attorney General’s office in the past week.
Delegates voiced concerns that the legislation may include a compulsory medical examination before transgender people could access legal recognition and that married transgender people would have to divorce their spouses before accessing recognition. This is due to the constitutional protection of marriage.
Asked about the question of “forced divorce”, Ms Burton said the AG report “deals specifically with that issue and of course for the groups it is an issue but the Irish Constitution and its position on marriage is a matter of fact”.
Ms Burton faced a protest from eight members of the audience who held up placards.