Scotland passes gender recognition reform bill

Scotland’s lawmakers passed controversial legislation which will make it easier for transgender people
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EDINBURGH: Scotland’s lawmakers passed controversial legislation which will make it easier for transgender people to legally change their gender, despite the toxic debate that led to a split within the ruling Scottish National Party (SNP), according to The Scotsman, a Scotland-based newspaper.

Now the bill has been passed, it should gain royal assent which will lower the minimum age for those seeking the gender recognition certificate to 16 and drops the time required for an applicant to live in their acquired gender from two years to three months.

Scotland passes gender recognition reform bill, making easier to legally change gender from two years to three months.

It also removes the need for a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria to obtain the certificate.

The legislation, which garnered 86 votes in favour but 39 against on Thursday (Local Time), was voted through following a marathon week of parliamentary scrutiny.

While passing the latest law, the SNP suffered the biggest rebellion in the history of the Scottish Parliament for the second time, with nine rebels on the government benches voting against the Bill.

Scottish Labour also saw that two of their junior spokespeople resign after breaking the whip and voting against the Bill, reported The Scotsman.

Claire Baker and Carol Mochan, Scottish Labour’s spokespeople for drugs and mental health respectively, immediately resigned their positions following the vote. Michael Marra, the party’s education spokesperson, and Pauline McNeill, the party’s justice spokesperson, were both provided with leaves of absence to enable them to avoid the vote.

The Scottish Conservatives, who gave their MSPs a free vote, saw three members back the Bill – two more than at stage one, The Scotsman reported.

However, the UK Government immediately intervened and suggested it could employ never-before-utilised powers within the Scotland Act to block the Bill in the Supreme Court.

Section 35 of the Scotland Act allows the UK Government to intervene and block the passage of a Bill if it the UK Government believes it makes modifications to the law on reserved matters or has an adverse effect on the operation of the law around reserved matters.

After the final vote, Scottish Secretary Alister Jack said that the government should consider action in the Supreme court and that many people have concerns regarding certain aspects of this Bill and, in particular, the safety issues for women and children, as per The Scotsman.

“We will look closely at that, and also the ramifications for the 2010 Equality Act and other UK-wide legislation, in the coming weeks – up to and including a section 35 order stopping the Bill going for Royal Assent if necessary,” The Scotsman quoted Jack as saying.

However, Shona Robison, the Cabinet secretary for social justice, said it would be “very disappointing” if the Bill was blocked following the “decisive” vote in favour.

She said, “It would be very disappointing if the UK Government didn’t respect Scottish democracy and the decision of the Scottish Parliament. This area of policy is entirely within devolved competence.” 

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