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by Kirsteen Paterson
06 October 2022
Equalities committee backs gender recognition law reform by five to two

Equalities committee backs gender recognition law reform by five to two

MSPs have been urged to vote for reforms of gender recognition laws after a parliament committee backed them.

Five members of Holyrood's Equalities, Human Rights and Civil Justice Committee have agreed to the general principles of the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill, while two have not.

With a majority in favour, committee convener Joe FitzPatrick said "now is the time" to enact the changes.

Vic Valentine, manager of Scottish Trans said: "We urge MSPs to now also vote in favour of reforms, and to make a real difference to the lives of trans people in Scotland."

The committee's position is revealed one day after the UK's equalities watchdog urged the Scottish and UK Governments to work together to avoid "confusion" over the proposed changes.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission raised concerns over the impacts of plans to allow 16 and 17-year-olds to change their legal sex and on the operation of laws relating to sex discrimination and more under the Equality Act.

Policy analysis collective Murray Blackburn Mackenzie, which opposes the bill, said that "major intervention" must be taken "seriously".

The committee's report follows evidence sessions which heard from a range of voices.

Convenor Joe FitzPatrick supports the general principles of the bill, as do fellow SNP members Karen Adam and Fulton MacGregor. Maggie Chapman of the Scottish Greens and Labour's Pam Duncan-Glancy are also in favour.

Only Pam Gosal and Rachael Hamilton of the Conservatives are not in favour.

Tim Hopkins, director of LGBTQI+ charity Equality Network, said it was "unsurprising" that "the two Tories on the committee oppose it".

FitzPatrick said: "Whilst not all the committee agreed, for the majority of our members it is clear that now is the time for reform of the gender recognition process and we support the general principles within the bill. We believe these important reforms will improve the lives and experiences of trans people."

Introduced by Shona Robison in March, the bill removes the need for applicants to have a diagnosis of gender dysphoria in order to have their sex changed on legal records. It reduces the minimum age for this from 18 to 16 and cuts the length of time that applicants must have lived in their acquired gender from two years to three months. 

It also introduces a specific offence of knowingly making a false statutory declaration, which will carry a maximum sentence of two years imprisonment and/or a fine, if passed.

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