Transgender legislation pledged


Legislation to provide for the legal recognition of transgender people would be put before the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Social Protection in coming weeks, the Minister Joan Burton has said.

Speaking at the opening session of the fourth European Transgender Council meeting in Dublin today she said the enacting of such legislation was a priority for her, though she was unable to give reassurances on a number of key issues to trans people.

Transgender delegates from across Europe are in Dublin for the council meeting, which continues through the weekend and is hosted by the Transgender Equality Network Ireland (Teni).

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 Laffoy’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”, given its acceptance in 2010 that it was in breach of the European Convention of Human Rights, he said.

“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 trans people cannot have their birth certificate 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 trans people could access legal recognition and that married trans people would have to divorce their spouse before accessing recognition. This is due to the constitutional protection of marriage.

Asked about the question of "forced divorce", Ms Burton said the Attorney General's 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 protest from eight members of the audience who held up placards, with “Shame on you Minister Burton”, “Same Old Story” “Not Good Enough” and “15 years and still waiting” as she finished speaking.

Broden Giamrone, director of Transgender Equality Network Ireland, said legislation was needed that respected the community and did not pathologise trans people or tear their families apart.

Senator Katherine Zappone said if Ireland introduced a legislation incorporating a forced divorce clause, “requiring an individual to choose between their family and their identity we will inevitably see more legal challenges, costing more money to the State”.