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Trans man who gave birth loses historic court battle to be named his child’s father

Josh Milton September 25, 2019
Freddy McConnell. (Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival)

Freddy McConnell. (Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival)

Trans dad Freddy McConnell, who gave birth to his child, has lost the right to be named as a father on their birth certificate in a high-stakes and historic court battle.

McConnell, a multimedia journalist who works for the UK paper The Guardian, will not be listed as the father of his child on legal documents.

A judge today ruled against him at a High Court trial in London, England.

His legal team said the courts “failed” McConnell and his family in a declaration that has left McConnell and his supporters stunned.

McConnell is considering appealing the verdict, his legal team told PinkNews. He took to Twitter afterwards to confirm his appeal and said he was “saddened” by the news.

His lawyers argued that the child would have been the first person born in England and Wales not to legally have a mother if McConnell won his case.

And if he had won, it would have paved the way for trans-inclusive, gender-neutral birth certificates in what advocacy groups argued would better reflect the growing diversity of families in the UK.

The verdict “highlights how the law is slow to keep up to modern society”, says lawyer. 

McConnell, hours after the verdict was read, said on Twitter that he’s worried about the implications the case will have on families in the UK.

“I fear this decision has distressing implications for many kinds of families. I will seek to appeal and give no more interviews at this stage,” he said.

Karen Holden, lawyer for the case and founder of A City Law Firm, told PinkNews her dismay over the court verdict.

“As a firm that champions equality we are, of course, disappointed at the judgement and it highlights how the law is slow to keep up to modern society.

“Freddy is legally a man and his legal papers display the same. In the UK he has the right to change his gender on his own birth certificate, so why not his child’s?

“Surely if you are going to move with modern times the law has to finish the journey it has started.

“A birth certificate will stay with a child for life and it will be factually and legally inaccurate under current rules.”

Sir Andrew McFarlane, president of the family division of the High Court, heard arguments from lawyers representing Mr McConnell, the child, the head of the General Register Office, Department of Health and Social Care ministers and Home Office ministers.

Barrister Hannah Markham QC, McConnell’s legal team lead, claimed that it was in the child’s interest to be registered as father or parent.

Many children are growing up with “rainbow families”, she argued, and a child has the right to have a parent’s gender “appropriately identified” on the birth certificate, Yahoo! News reported.

“As far as Mr McConnell’s child is concerned, he is their father”, family law experts argue.

Moreover, Freddy McConnell’s legal team raised that the UK’s system of birth registration does not treat all families equally.

However, barristers representing ministers and registrars argued against McConnell. They claimed the case verdict would not breach McConnell’s human rights.

Supporters of McConnell in LGBT+ family law firms have dubbed the verdict “disappointing”.

Hannah Saxe and Scott Halliday, family law experts at Irwin Mitchell told PinkNews: “The decision is hugely disappointing and highlights one of the many challenges faced by trans people wishing to create a family.

“It cannot be right that a person can be legally recognised as male is some respects, such as on a Gender Recognition Certificate, but not in others.

“The welfare of the child is also key – as far as Mr McConnell’s child is concerned, he is their father and their birth certificate should reflect the reality of their family situation.”

Queer rights groups stand by Freddy McConnell. 

LGBT+ campaigners and groups were disquieted by the verdict.

Laura Russell, Stonewall’s director of campaigns, policy and research, said: “It’s deeply disappointing to hear the Court has ruled against Freddy McConnell.

“We believe this ruling is a missed opportunity to send a positive message and recognise all parents, including LGBT parents, for who they are.

“This legislation desperately needs to be updated to ensure trans people are recognised for who they are in all areas of their lives.

“It’s another example of how current legislation contradicts the fragile equality trans people currently have, by creating a situation where trans people can have full recognition on some legal documents, but not on others.

“Updating this legislation will also benefit others in the LGBT community, specifically same-sex parents, who face similarly inaccurate and unequal representation on their children’s birth certificates.

“We stand with Freddy and our work continues until outdated legislation recognises the correct legal status of all lesbian, gay, bi and trans parents when their child is born.”

Who is Freddy McConnell?

Seahorse. (Instagram/SeahorseFilm)

The 32-year-old stopped taking testosterone to carry his own baby, and gave birth to his child in 2018.

But when he went to register his child’s birth, he was told by the registry office that his only option was to register as the child’s mother.

This ignited him to purse legal action, with his primary claim in court being that the law is being misrepresented and that he has the right – as a legal male – to be registered as the child’s father or parent.

Freddy McConnell wished for he and his child to be anonymous during the case.

But he was catapulted into headlines after a group of media organisations, including the Daily Mail, The Sun, The Mirror and the Daily Telegraph, won the legal right to identify him in reports.

His child would remain anonymous.

McConnell’s pregnancy was recorded in the new documentary Seahorse, by the BBC in association with The Guardian.

In an interview with PinkNews earlier this month, he said parenting “feels like the most important job I’ve ever had”.

“People would say to me, ‘Oh, you’ll be really keen to get back to work’ – because I took a whole year of parental leave – and I just wasn’t.

“I’d much rather play on the beach every day, or go to the woods, or watch Moana for the 500th time.”

More: courts, Freddy McConnell, Law, Trans, UK

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