UK transsexuals may marry, conditionally

Michael McDonough | February 13, 2004

LONDON — Legislation allowing transsexuals to obtain new birth certificates and marry in their adoptive gender received approval from Britain's upper chamber of Parliament on Tuesday.

The Gender Recognition Bill, which the House of Lords passed by 155 votes to 57, next goes to the House of Commons and is expected to come into force in 2005.

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.

The proposed gender recognition would be authorized by a panel of legal and medical experts. Registrars and other professionals involved would be under a legal obligation not to divulge the fact that a person had changed gender.

However, under the proposed measures, churches would be allowed to ask a prospective marriage partner if he or she had changed gender. If they found the answer unsatisfactory, they could refuse to conduct the marriage.

Sports governing bodies would also be allowed to make special rules for transsexual competitors.

Britain's estimated 5,000 transsexuals may currently change their gender on their passports, driving licenses 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.

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.

Europe's top court ruled last month that restricting marriage and pension rights for transsexuals violates European Union law.

The ruling by the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg will apply to all EU countries, including the 10 mainly eastern European nations joining in May.

Transgender activists in the United States have in recent years highlighted uncertainty about the validity of marriages involving transsexuals and difficulties in changing the sex designation on birth certificates. – Sapa-AP

Related stories
UK transsexuals get the right to marry in new gender [04/12/2003]



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