UK’s highest court to hear landmark case on gender-neutral passports after decades-long fight by non-gendered activist
The UK Supreme Court is to hear an appeal case on the government’s refusal to issue gender-neutral passports brought forward by Christie Elan-Cane.
The non-gendered activist, who has campaigned for a third gender option on British passports for more than 25 years, lost the latest round of per long-running legal challenge at the Court of Appeal in March.
Elan-Cane, who uses the pronouns per/perself, had challenged the legality of the UK government’s passport policy, which requires that either an “M” or “F” gender marker appear on every UK passport. The Court of Appeal said that the policy is not unlawful, but emphasised that people whose gender identity is non-gendered or non-binary have a right to respect.
Elan-Cane’s law firm, Clifford Chance, said Thursday (12 November) that it has secured permission to appeal to the Supreme Court to challenge the government’s policy to refuse to issue non-gendered passports.
Jemima Roe, associate at Clifford Chance, said: “This case raises important questions regarding the right to respect for individuals’ identity, specifically for those who identify as neither or not exclusively male or female.
“Access to “X” passports is crucial for the protection of the human rights of this demographic, who are otherwise forced to use a passport which misrepresents their identity. Clifford Chance is proud to be working with Christie Elan-Cane and Blackstone Chambers to argue this case before the Supreme Court.”
Non-gender specific passports are permitted by the relevant international standards and are available in a number of countries worldwide.
A gender-neutral passport with an “X” gender marker is available in Argentina, Canada, Iceland, India, Malta, Nepal, New Zealand, Pakistan, Uruguay, most of Australia and in multiple US states. Major US airlines including Delta, JetBlue, United and American Airlines offer passengers the option of booking tickets under an “X” gender marker, as well as European airline Air Italy.
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Christie Elan-Cane and the fight for gender-neutral passports in the UK.
Christie Elan-Cane has fought the UK government over the issue of gender-neutral passport since the 1990s.
Per latest case, against the Home Office, was heard at the Court of Appeal in December 2019, after Elan-Cane lost against the Home Office at the High Court in 2018.
The Home Office made submissions to the court during the 2018 hearing which said that the case should be dismissed and said the current policy represents an “administratively coherent system for the recognition of gender”.
Elan-Cane lost per appeal at the Court of Appeal earlier this year, with the court saying that the Home Office policy of only providing binary gender options for UK passports is not unlawful.
However, the court found that the right to respect for private life under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights does include a right to respect for a person’s non-gendered identity, marking the first time the UK Courts have recognised that Article 8 guarantees a right to respect for those who identify outside the binary concepts of male and female.