A woman in Malta who has been refused the right to get married to her male partner because she used to be male has challenged the decision in court.

The Director of Public Registry’s decision to refuse to issue marriage banns is a breach of her fundamental human rights, claims Joanne Casser.

In February 2007 Justice Gino Camilleri ordered the director, Anthony Geraldi, to issue the banns on the grounds that the union is legal.

He ruled, as the bride to be has now become a woman, there was no contravention of marriage legislation.

However, the Civil Court overturned that ruling.

Ms Cassar has now filed an application against the Director of Public Registry and the Attorney General at the First Hall of the Civil Court.

Mr Geraldi argues that the change in the Act of Birth that allows a change of name and gender was only to protect Ms Cassar’s privacy and does not mean that she can now be considered a woman in legal terms, as her surgery was cosmetic.

Ms Cassar says the European Court of Human Rights has established rights for trans people and the lack of recognition in Maltese law of her gender is a violation of her fundamental human rights.

Only 18% of the Maltese population support gay marriage, a 2006 Eurobarometer survey found.

Malta is one of the most socially conservative countries in the EU.

98% of the population are Roman Catholics, and although homosexuality is legal, there remains significant prejudice.

The Mediterranean island, a British colony until 1964, has around 400,000 inhabitants and is the smallest EU state in terms of both size and population.

In 2000 the government was criticised by gay rights groups for openly homophobic statements criticising EU proposals to treat gay people equally.