Transgender woman in civil partnership

22 February 2012

A transgender woman has officially entered a civil partnership with her female partner in Ireland. The registration ceremony, which took place some time ago, amounts to legal recognition of the woman's acquired gender because the Civil Partnership Act requires that civil partners must be legally of the same sex. We will refer to the woman as Maria.

The Civil Registration Service officially recognised Maria as female even though the Government has not yet introduced legislation to legally recognise transgender persons.

FLAC, the Free Legal Advice Centres, assisted Maria in her correspondence with the registration authorities, which resulted in her being allowed to register her civil partnership. Maria is a citizen of another EU state who is working here. She is fully recognised as a female in her own country and has a birth certificate and identity documents, all showing her gender as female.

Maria is covered by EU law on free movement for workers and under that law the Irish authorities must accept her in the gender recognised by her home country. So when she met and formed a relationship with her female partner, the Civil Registration Service had to accept that they were of the same gender and could enter into a civil partnership.

However, an Irish citizen in Maria's position cannot enter into a civil partnership because Irish law still does not provide for recognition of transgender persons. Nearly five years after the High Court decided in the Lydia Foy case in 2007 that Irish law was in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights over its attitude to transgender persons, the law has still not been changed.

It can only be a matter of time before a transgender Irish citizen applies for a civil partnership with her or his same-sex partner - or applies to get married to an opposite-sex partner. As the law stands at the moment, they are likely to be refused and the matter will end up in the courts again.


Editors' notes:

  1. FLAC (Free Legal Advice Centres) is an independent human rights organisation dedicated to the realisation of equal access to justice for all. It campaigns through advocacy, strategic litigation and authoritative analysis to contribute to the eradication of social and economic exclusion.
  2. FLAC has been involved in the leading case of Foy vs Registrar General for almost 15 years. Read more about this ground-breaking case in our briefing document from June 2010 and in a news story from when the state dropped its appeal.
  3. In September 2011, FLAC made a submission to government around planned legislation to provide for transgender rights in Ireland.