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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, October 24 2014 - Volume 42 Issue 43
Trans Scots to get new rights by Christmas
Section One
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Trans Scots to get new rights by Christmas

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Scotland's Trans community will get new rights by Christmas this year, thanks to two laws passed by the country's parliament.

First, same-sex marriage will be legal in Scotland beginning December 16. While that is welcome news for Gay and Lesbian couples, it is also good news for Trans people who want to legally change their gender, but at the same time want to continue in their existing marriages.

The same rule will apply in England and Wales beginning December 10, when same-sex marriage takes effect in those countries.

The United Kingdom's Gender Recognition Act, passed in 2005, laid the legal basis for Trans people to change their birth certificates, driver's licenses, and other legal papers.

However, if they were married, they were required to divorce their spouses prior to transitioning. If they failed to do so, they would be in violation of British laws defining marriage as an opposite-sex institution. And that rule applied even to couples who had been married for years and whose marriage continued to be loving, affirming, and supportive, and one which they wanted to keep.

The Scottish government announced on October 22 that that untenable choice is coming to an end. Starting on December 16, Trans people who married in Scotland will finally be able to get gender recognition without divorcing.

They will then be able to get a new marriage certificate in their new name and showing their new chosen designation as 'bride,' 'bridegroom,' or neither. Couples can choose between a full 'renewal' marriage ceremony, which can be conducted by a registrar, religious celebrant, or humanist celebrant. Or they can simply re-register the marriage for free.

For people who married in Scotland there is an additional right - to get gender recognition as your own decision, a decision that cannot be blocked by your spouse.

When Scotland passed the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Act - the measure that legalized same-sex marriage - this year, parliament included a provision abolishing the so-called 'spousal veto' over gender reassignment.

Scottish law used to follow English law in requiring a person to get their spouse's consent to apply for an interim gender recognition certificate, which would then be converted to full gender reassignment by a sheriff's court.

Beginning December 16, that will no longer be necessary.

Individuals now in same-sex civil partnerships who wish to change gender and still remain in their relationships will have to marry, however, because there is no provision in Scottish law for opposite-sex civil partnerships.

The Scottish government said it will introduce a streamlined process next year, enabling applicants to obtain gender reassignment and have their civil partnership converted to a marriage in one step. If both civil partners want to get gender reassignment, they can keep their civil partnership so long as they both apply for reassignment at the same time.

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