FLAC welcomes Transgender Report and Minister’s commitment to change the law
14 July 2011
The Free Legal Advice Centres (FLAC) today (14th July) welcomed the publication of the report of the Government's committee on the recognition of transgender persons and the commitment by Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton to prioritise the drafting of a Gender Recognition Bill.
FLAC, which represented Dr Lydia Foy in her court battle for legal recognition in her female gender, said the committee's report and the promise to change the law were a significant milestone in the long struggle for legal recognition and inclusion of transgender persons in Irish society.
"While we have concerns about some of the report's recommendations, we welcome it as an official acknowledgement and acceptance of the transgender community and a recognition of their right to dignity and respect", said FLAC.
"We also welcome Minister Burton's tribute to Dr Lydia Foy, whose 14-year long legal campaign has brought us to the point where legislation is about to be drafted to allow transgender persons to obtain birth certificates in their true gender and to marry in that gender as well. It has been a long and painful road for Dr Foy, but her courage and tenacity mean that others will not have to go through the humiliation and suffering that she endured".
The commitment that the Government will prioritise this legislation is also important in terms of Ireland's respect for its obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights, said FLAC. "The Government accepted over a year ago that it was in breach of the European Convention over its treatment of Dr Foy. It would seriously undermine our reputation as a human rights compliant country if we delayed any further in remedying this breach", said the legal human rights body.
"Finally, FLAC is concerned about the proposal in the report that a transgender person who is already married would have to divorce to secure recognition of her/his acquired gender, but we also welcome the fact that the report recommends against any requirement that major surgery would be required as a pre-condition of legal recognition". FLAC said: "We call for a vigorous debate on the proposed legislation that may move Ireland from the back of the class on the issue of gender identity recognition to leading the way in Europe on this issue".
Notes for Editors:
1. The report is available on: http://www.welfare.ie/EN/Policy/Legislation/Pages/gragreportjune11.aspx
2. The High Court found in 2007 that Ireland was in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights by failing to provide legal recognition for transgender persons. Judge Liam McKechnie said that Ireland was very isolated from the rest of Europe on this issue and made the first ever declaration that Irish law was incompatible with the European Convention. The Government appealed that decision to the Supreme Court but withdrew its appeal in June 2010, thereby accepting the verdict of the High Court. The Fianna Fail/Green Party Government promised in October 2009 to introduce legislation to provide for legal recognition of transgender persons in their acquired gender and to allow them to marry or enter into civil partnerships in that gender. They also set up a Gender Recognition Advisory Group to propose Heads of a Bill on this issue in May 2010. The Group held consultations with interested parties in October last year and was expected to report by Christmas but has still not done so. The current Government also promised to introduce transgender legislation in its Programme for Government but nothing has happened while it awaits the report of the Gender Recognition Group.
3. FLAC has produced a briefing document on this issue: "The Lydia Foy Case" (21 June 2010), available at http://www.flac.ie/download/pdf/2010_06_17_foy_case_briefing_document.pdf
4. FLAC (Free Legal Advice Centres) is an independent human rights organisation which works to promote equal access to justice for all. It runs a lo-call telephone information line giving general legal information and supports a network of volunteer-run evening FLAC clinics around Ireland (35 in Dublin and 52 in other parts of the country).