Joan Burton Publishes Revised General Scheme of the Gender Recognition Bill 2014

Bill will provide for State recognition of the acquired gender of transgender people

DSp LogoThe Minister for Social Protection, Joan Burton T.D., has today, 17th June 2014, published the revised General Scheme of the Gender Recognition Bill following Cabinet approval (document attached). The Programme for Government includes a commitment that transgender persons will be provided with legal recognition.

When the Minister published the General Scheme of the Bill last July, following Cabinet approval, it provided for the recognition of the acquired gender of transgender people aged 18 and over who are not married or in a civil partnership. To ensure detailed consideration, the Bill was referred to the Joint Oireachtas Committee (JOC) on Education and Social Protection for pre-legislative scrutiny. The Committee held hearings on the legislation on 23 and 24 October 2013. Officials from the Department of Social Protection, representative groups and legal and medical experts participated in the hearings. The Committee’s Report was published in January 2014.

Under the Government decision of 16 July 2013 it was agreed that, in the event of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Education and Social Protection proposing significant changes to the Bill, the Minister for Social Protection would revert to Government with those proposed changes.

Minister Burton said: “I would like to thank the members of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Education and Social Protection for the Report that the Committee prepared on the General Scheme of the Gender Recognition Bill. I would also like to thank all those who made contributions at the hearings. The whole process enhanced our understanding of the complex issues that are being addressed in this legislation. I also want to again welcome the support of my Cabinet colleagues on these hugely important proposals.”

Once the legislation is enacted, it will mean that a person will have their acquired gender fully recognised for all purposes, including dealings with the State, public bodies, and civil and commercial society.

This will be done through the issuing of a gender recognition certificate by the Department of Social Protection. The person would then be officially legally recognised by the State as being of the acquired gender from the date of the decision to issue the gender recognition certificate.

They would then be able to apply for a new birth certificate. They would be entitled to marry a person of the opposite gender or enter a civil partnership with a person of the same gender.
The legislation will also allow for applications from persons with intersex conditions should they wish to apply. Intersex is a general term used for a variety of conditions in which a person is born with a reproductive or sexual anatomy that does not fit the typical definitions of female or male. As a result, intersex persons may find themselves living in a gender at variance to the gender assigned at birth.

Under the Bill, the application process for gender recognition will be administrative via the Department of Social Protection and will consist of:
•           A statutory self-declaration by the applicant that they intend to live permanently in the new gender; and
•           Validation by the primary treating physician that the person has transitioned or is transitioning to the acquired gender (or, in the case of intersex persons, the identified gender).

Minister Burton said: “The application process will be administrative, which I believe will be a streamlined and dignified process which protects all concerned and ensures that the registration process will be robust. It will be based on a statutory declaration to my Department by the person concerned along with a supporting letter from their primary treating physician. The process will not require details of care including medical history or confirmation of a diagnosis. Nor will it require that the person has lived in the acquired gender for a specific period of time after their transition. I believe this is a compassionate and understanding approach and central to the spirit of the Bill.”

A key recommendation of the Report of the Joint Oireachtas Committee was that the minimum age at which a person could apply for a gender recognition certificate should be 16, instead of 18.

Minister Burton said: “I fully acknowledge that this is a difficult and sensitive issue. I have given the matter careful consideration on foot of the discussion at the Joint Oireachtas Committee, which included the views of transgender people, a parent and medical experts. Today at Cabinet, I sought and received approval for changes to the Bill so that the requirement for an applicant for gender recognition to be 18 years or more will be amended to provide that:
–          a person aged 16 or 17 years may, with parent/guardian consent, apply for a Court order exempting them from that requirement;
–          the application by that 16 or 17 year old will be accompanied by confirmation from the treating physician and an independent physician that the person is sufficiently mature to make the application.

This approach provides the double safeguard of parental/guardian consent and approval by Court order.”

The Revised General Scheme of the Bill retains the requirement that an applicant for gender recognition be single, pending the outcome of the referendum on same-sex marriage.

The General Scheme of the Bill will now be referred to the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel for drafting with the aim of the legislation being published later in the year and enacted as soon as possible after that.