- If the courts won’t allow gender-neutral passports, UK Parliament must.
The Court of Appeal has ruled that the current law does not force the UK to give people ‘gender X’ passports.
The ruling today is the latest saga in a long-running legal battle. Campaigners have argued the UK should follow other countries which issue ‘gender X’ passports to people who don’t identify as male or female.
And ‘non-gender’ campaigner Christie Elan-Cane – who uses the pronouns ‘per’ and ‘perself’ – has taken the case through the courts.
Court accepts government’s argument
The judges’ decision today, issued in the Royal Courts of Justice in London, stems from Elan-Cane’s appeal in December last year.
Per had appealed a previous High Court ruling that Her Majesty’s Passport Office was allowed to refuse ‘X’ passports.
The judges agreed Elan-Cane’s ‘right to respect for private life will include a right to respect for the claimant’s identification as non-gendered’.
However, the court accepted the UK Government’s argument that it shouldn’t issue gender-neutral passports without making new laws to recognize people who do not identify as male or female.
That demand from the UK Government delays and complicates making ‘X’ passports happen. If they were to allow the passport change on its own, they would only need to change their policy, not the law.
Now Elan-Cane is hoping to take the case to the Supreme Court.
‘Legitimate identity is a fundamental human right’
Elan-Cane said at the moment people like per have to say they are male or female on a passport application form – even though that’s a false declaration.
Per added: ‘Legitimate identity is a fundamental human right.
‘But non-gendered people are treated as though we have no rights. It is unacceptable that someone who defines as neither male nor female is forced to declare an inappropriate gender in order to obtain a passport.
‘This decision is devastating to me. It is bad news for everyone who cannot obtain a passport without the requirement imposed by the UK government that they should collude in their own social invisibility.
‘My legal team will seek permission to appeal this decision on my behalf in order that the case can be heard before the Supreme Court. Justice delayed is justice denied.’
The UK should legislate for ‘gender X’ passports?
Countries including Canada, Nepal and New Zealand already issue ‘gender X’ passports. Meanwhile India recognizes a third gender with ‘E’ passports alongside ‘M’ and ‘F’ versions.
Today’s decision is likely to see campaigners push harder for the UK to legislate to make the change.
Already Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesperson Christine Jardine has criticized the ruling Conservative party for fighting Elan-Cane through the courts. She believes they should just make the simple change.
She said: ‘I find it utterly incomprehensible that this Conservative government is going to such extreme lengths to avoid a relatively small change that would make a big difference to so many people’s lives.
‘Liberal Democrats will always stand up for the rights and dignity of trans, intersex and non-binary people. We must combat the hostility and discrimination that prevents too many people from living freely and fulfilling their potential.
‘If the government continues to refuse to introduce an “X” gender option, Parliament must act to introduce it through legislation.’
You can get a blue one though
However, the UK is changing one thing about its passports – the color.
As a result of leaving the EU, it is now replacing the long-standing burgundy-covered passports with a new blue design. People who supported the UK remaining in the EU have widely mocked the change as ‘trivial’.
Meanwhile, more significantly, some in the UK government appear to want to leave the European Convention on Human Rights.
The convention and European Court of Human Rights are separate to the EU. But they have been instrumental in securing LGBT+ and human rights, often in the face of UK government opposition. Notably, Elan-Cane used ECHR law in arguing this case.