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Trans victory: Scotland removes spousal veto from gay marriage

As the Equal Opportunities Committee unanimouly passes the spousal veto amendment, Scottish Transgender Alliance's Nathan Gale reflects on why this is a victory for all LGBTI people
Scottish Transgender Alliance's Nathan Gale celebrates the spousal veto being defeated from Scotland's gay marriage bill.

In a major step forward for trans equality in Scotland, the Scottish Parliament’s Equal Opportunities Committee today passed an amendment to the equal marriage bill removing the spousal veto on gender recognition.

The amendment, which was proposedby the Equality Network and Scottish Transgender Alliance, and submitted by Linda Fabiani MSP, means married trans people living in Scotland will be able to have their gender legally recognized without having to get the consent of their spouse.

Without the amendment Scotland’s equal marriage bill would not have delivered genuine marriage equality for trans people. The spousal veto would have enabled the husband or wife of a trans person to deny their partner the right to have the gender they live as recognized in law.

This aspect of the Bill rightly attracted a great deal of criticism from trans people who felt it undermined their personal autonomy.

It is our strong view that legal gender recognition is a human right that should not be able to be vetoed by another person.

Many spouses of trans people were also greatly opposed to the spousal veto and objected to the suggestion they should have control over a fundamental aspect of their partner’s identity.

We have worked hard to ensure our amendment to the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Bill achieves a fair balance of rights between the trans and non-trans spouse.

Previously as well as having the right to an uncontestable divorce, the non-trans spouse was also able to block their partner’s gender recognition. The Bill now redresses this balance by ensuring the trans spouse can obtain gender recognition while continuing to provide their partner with the right to get a divorce if they are not happy staying in the marriage.

As transgender equality is developing across Europe an increasing number of countries are removing divorce requirements from their laws and treating gender recognition as a purely individualized process.

Of the 10 European Countries who have introduced same sex marriage none, apart from England and Wales, have a spousal veto on gender recognition.

We are delighted the Scottish Parliament has taken this opportunity to develop our laws in line with best practice and maintain Scotland’s reputation as a leader on trans equality.

Because gender recognition is provided by the UK-wide Gender Recognition Panel (GRP) the Scottish Parliament cannot enact legislation which would change their procedures. If the Bill passes, trans people married in Scotland will therefore continue to apply to the GRP and, if they don’t have the consent of their spouse, will be given an interim gender recognition certificate.

Our amendment will then enable them to apply to the Sheriff Court, using a straightforward administrative procedure, and receive full gender recognition.

Since we launched the Equal Marriage campaign in 2008, the Equality Network has always been determined for trans equality to be an integral part of Scotland’s equal marriage legislation - not an afterthought.

We have been eager for the Bill to be well considered and meet the needs of all LGBT people.

The success of this amendment means the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Bill was worth waiting for - Scotland can now proudly say that it is set to introduce equal marriage.

Nathan Gale is a development worker at Scottish Transgender Alliance

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