U.K. transsexuals could get legal recognition

By Advocate.com Editors

Originally published on Advocate.com December 14 2002 12:00 AM ET

The British government proposed legislation Friday to legally recognize sex changes, a move that would allow transsexuals to marry in their new gender.

Britain is 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 backed complaints by two transsexuals in July that British law violated their rights.

Rosie Winterton, a minister in the lord chancellor's office, which oversees Britain's court system, said that if passed, the proposed legislation would bring the country into compliance with the European ruling.

"Our legislation will enable transsexual people confidently to take up those rights which have been denied to them in society, including the right to marry in their acquired gender," she said. "I have been impressed by the case put forward by the trans community and the persuasive arguments they have used in illustrating the plight of an often forgotten minority in society."

An original birth certificate would not be amended, but the person could obtain a new record with his or her new name and gender--with its ties to the old one to be kept confidential, the government said.

Before recognizing someone's new gender, Winterton said, a panel will review medical evidence and ascertain that the person has lived in the acquired sex for at least two years. She added that the government would not require those who want to register a new gender to have undergone sex-change surgery.

Christine Burns of the transsexual rights group Press for Change said the organization was eager to examine the details of the government's proposal.

"It is vital that they offer consistent and complete legal recognition for all purposes," she said. "It's no good someone being a man for one part of the law and a woman for another aspect because that would lead to the same problems that people have suffered all along."