TV & Radio
The Sunday Times October 30, 2005
Sex-change couple seek marriage recognition
A SCOTS couple have launched a legal bid to allow transsexuals to remain married.
At present married people who undergo a sex change operation must divorce for their new gender to be officially recognised.
However, a 31-year-old finance manager from Edinburgh, who underwent sex change surgery in 2003, has petitioned the European Court, claiming that UK law is a breach of his human rights.
He wants to be recognised as a woman under the law but can only do so if he divorces his wife, a 28-year-old computer systems manager. The couple, who have refused to be named in court documents to protect their privacy, want to remain married.
If he is successful, the government could be forced to amend the Gender Recognition Act, introduced last year, to allow transsexuals to amend their birth certificates and give them new protection from discrimination.
The couple are prepared to spend £20,000 — all their savings — fighting the case.
“We feel trapped. When we married we made a public commitment in front of our friends and family to stay together for better or for worse and have no intention of breaking that promise,” said the plaintiff.
“This legislation breaches our human rights because it is plain interference by the state in our private lives. The last time something like this happened was in Nazi Germany when Jews were forcibly separated from their non-Jewish partners.”
The couple, who met at Edinburgh University and married in 1998, have letters of support from their GPs who have warned of the physical and psychological impact of going through a divorce.
“Not many couples stay together after one of them decides to have a sex change, so that shows the commitment we have made to each other. A civil partnership is just not the same as marriage,” said his wife.
It is estimated that there are up to 5,000 transsexuals and about 300 married transsexual couples in the UK. There are about half a dozen couples in which both spouses have undergone sex changes.
Claire McNab, of Press for Change, a support group for transsexuals, said that law needs to be changed.
“There is no other situation that I am aware of where a person has to choose between their marriage and another human right — it’s absurd,” she said.
A spokesman for the Department of Constitutional Affairs said the government remains opposed to same-sex marriages.
“At the moment this country doesn’t recognise same-sex marriages and there is no plan to change that,” he said. “We have come up with civil partnerships, which are available on the same day as the marriage annulment.”