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UK transsexuals get the right to marry in new gender

December 4, 2003

LONDON — British transsexuals will be able to marry in their adoptive gender under legal measures published Friday.

Transsexuals seeking legal recognition of their new gender will have to provide evidence that they intend to live fully and permanently in that gender, but they will not have to undergo sex change surgery.

"In a civilized society individuals and groups must be able to exercise the rights they are legitimately entitled to and be allowed to live their lives free from discrimination," said Department of Constitutional Affairs minister Lord Filkin.

Until now, Britain has been one of a handful of European nations that refuse to let transsexual people officially change the gender on their birth certificate. The European Court of Human Rights ruled a year ago in favor of two transsexuals who claimed British laws violated their rights to a private life and marriage of their choice.

Britain's estimated 5,000 transsexuals may currently change their gender on their passport, driving license and medical cards, but cannot obtain a new birth certificate or marry in their new gender.

Under the new measures, transsexuals will need to show they have been diagnosed with gender dysphoria, a condition characterized by intense feelings of being the wrong gender, in order to obtain substitute birth certificates. They will also have to show that they have lived in the acquired gender for at least two years and that they intend to continue to live in the acquired gender.

In a concession to concerns in the church about the sexuality reforms, the bill gives priests the legal right to refuse to carry out a marriage ceremony if the bride or groom is a transsexual.

Transsexuals will also retain the rights and responsibilities of their old gender, including parenting and inheritance rights. –Sapa-AP

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