Writing for PinkNews.co.uk, the Equality Network’s Tom French says the decision of the Scottish Parliament’s Equal Opportunities Committee to remove the spousal veto from the country’s equal marriage bill is a crucial victory for trans and intersex people.
This morning Scotland took an important step towards equality for transgender people when the Scottish Parliament’s Equal Opportunities Committee unanimously passed the amendment to remove the spousal veto on gender recognition from Scotland’s equal marriage bill.
The amendment, drafted by the Equality Network and submitted by Linda Fabiani MSP, will mean that married transgender people in Scotland will no longer be forced to obtain written consent from their spouse before they can get legal recognition of their gender.
The significance of this amendment is not just that it is a key part of the package of measures that will secure genuine marriage equality for transgender and intersex people but also that it upholds the important principle that access to gender recognition is a human right, and a deeply personal matter of autonomy, that no one should be able to block.
It is worth noting that all the spouses of trans people that the Equality Network have consulted on this issue have welcomed our spousal veto amendment and greatly objected to the notion that they should have control over such a fundamental aspect of their partner’s identity.
The Scottish Government, the Equal Opportunities Committee, Linda Fabiani and MSPs from across the political parties deserve praise for listening to the concerns of trans people and their spouses, and showing that Scotland is a progressive country that takes trans equality seriously.
It is precisely because we have a government and parliament that are committed to equality for LGBT people that Scotland has developed a proud reputation of being at the forefront of LGBT equality in Europe, leading the way in introducing trans-inclusive policies and laws.
While the Equality Network has previously expressed the frustration of LGBT people that equal marriage legislation has taken longer to introduce in Scotland than in England and Wales we have always believed that it is better to take time and get the legislation right than to rush it and leave the rights of trans and intersex people behind.
When the Equality Network launched the Equal Marriage campaign in 2008 we were clear from the start that securing marriage equality for transgender people was an integral part of our campaign.
Today, after six years of active campaigning, we are delighted that the work put in is now paying off and that the extra wait for equal marriage in Scotland will have been well-and-truly worth it.
In addition to the successful passage of the spousal veto amendment the Equality Network have also managed to secure other positive changes to the bill including amendments that will allow gender-neutral marriage ceremonies, introduce simpler gender recognition evidence requirements for long-term transitioned people, and allow people with foreign civil partnerships to get married in Scotland.
There is still more work to do to ensure that the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Bill passes its final vote at stage 3 – now due in a matter of days – and that there are no amendments made at stage 3 that would roll back equality.
But with the strong support that we’ve secured so far in the Scottish Parliament we are hopeful that the bill will pass with a clear majority, and when it does Scotland can be proud to have passed progressive legislation that truly provides ‘equal marriage’ for all.
Tom French is the Equality Network’s policy coordinator and tweets at @TomfromBrighton.