Minister of State Kevin Humphreys ‘Proud to progress Gender Recognition Bill 2014 into Dáil’


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Minister of State Kevin Humphreys ‘Proud to progress Gender Recognition Bill 2014 into Dáil’

Kevin Humphreys, T.D., Minister of State at the Department of Social Protection has moved the Gender Recognition Bill 2014 to a further stage today (Thursday, 5 March 2015) when he introduced it in the Dáil.  The Minister told the Dáil that both the Tánaiste and he are very proud to be introducing this legislation that will progress the civil rights of transgender people.

The Minister told the Dáil: “The introduction of formal recognition of the identity of transgender people is a mark of the growing maturity of Irish society. It is an important element of the programme for social reform progressed by the Government.”

Referring to the High Court declaration in 2008 in respect of the case brought by Dr. Lydia Foy, Minister Humphreys said: “It is appropriate that I pay formal tribute today to Dr. Foy, whose unstinting efforts over very many years have played a crucial part in bringing us to this point.”

Explaining the fundamental concept that underlies this legislation, the Minister said that where a person has been issued with a gender recognition certificate by the Department of Social Protection, that person’s preferred gender will be formally and legally recognised for all purposes, including dealings with the State, public bodies and civil and commercial society.

“For many transgender people their birth certificate is the last remaining personal document that does not show their preferred gender. This legislation allows them to obtain a birth certificate showing their preferred gender”, the Minister said.

The person whose preferred gender is recognised will be entitled to marry a person of the opposite gender or enter a civil partnership with a person of the same gender.

All rights, responsibilities and consequences of actions by the person in their original gender prior to the date of recognition will remain unaffected.

In line with a recommendation of the Joint Oireachtas Committee, the Bill uses the term 'preferred gender'. This approach also facilitates applications for gender recognition from people with intersex conditions.  The application process for a gender recognition certificate will consist of:

  • A statutory declaration by the applicant that they intend to live permanently in their preferred gender; and
  • A supporting statement by their primary treating medical practitioner that the person has transitioned or is transitioning to the preferred gender. The physician must be a person who has a particular expertise in the care pathway for transgender people. This is the case for both endocrinologists and psychiatrists (subject to their particular practice).

Minister Humphreys said that the process will not require details of care including medical history or confirmation of a diagnosis, nor will the person have to confirm he or she has been living in their preferred gender for a specific period of time prior to their application.  He added: “This is a much more progressive, less onerous and less invasive approach than is the case in many other countries, both in the EU and elsewhere, and I hope it will be recognised as such.”

The Minister spoke on the requirement in the Bill that an applicant for gender recognition is single, pending the outcome of the referendum on same-sex marriage due to take place in May: “I accept this is not ideal, but the existing Constitutional prohibition on same-sex marriage is a blockage in that respect. I am very happy to confirm that I have agreement from my colleague the Minister for Justice and Equality that the Marriage Bill, which will be enacted if the referendum is passed by the people, will include provisions to amend this legislation to remove the requirement to be single.”

In relation to age the Joint Oireachtas Committee had recommended that the minimum age for gender recognition be reduced from 18 to 16 years. The Bill provides for applications from 16 and 17 year olds, but with significant safeguards attached which seek to balance the rights of such applicants with the need to protect their interests at a vulnerable age. “In particular, it will be necessary to secure a Circuit Family Court order in any such cases exempting the applicant from the standard requirement of a minimum age for gender recognition of 18 years”, the Minister said.

Minister Humphreys also stated the he strongly believes it is best practice to have a review process for new and significant legislation such as this Bill. “It was always my intention that there would be a review of the legislation and I was happy to bring forward a Government amendment to make this review statutory.

“Section 7 of the Bill now provides for a review of the operation of the Act to be carried out not later than two years following it coming into operation of the Act. It is critical that the impact and effectiveness of this important legislation is carefully assessed over time.  In addition, the phrase “based on a medical evaluation” was removed from several sections of the Bill.  This was done to make it absolutely clear that, in the application process, there is no requirement for a medical practitioner to carry out a specific medical evaluation such as a physical examination of an applicant for a gender recognition certificate.”

In conclusion, the Minister said that the provisions in this Bill contain some very significant improvements on previous proposals.  It is, he said, legislation which has been needed for a long time. 

ENDS

Last modified:05/03/2015