Campaigner Christie Elan-Cane dubs Supreme Court’s gender-neutral passport ruling an ‘abomination’
Non-gendered campaigner Christie Elan-Cane, who lost a Supreme Court appeal for ‘X’ gender markers in British passports, says “justice was not served”.
Elan-Cane’s landmark battle for legal recognition asked the British government to provide ‘X’ gender markers on passports for people who are not male or female, arguing that it is discriminatory to force non-binary and non-gendered citizens to falsely declare themselves to be male or female for the purposes of a travel document.
The case became the first-ever trans civil rights case to be heard by the UK’s highest court in July 2021.
But today Lord Read, announcing the verdict, said the Supreme Court agreed with the government’s position that making ‘X’ gender markers available on passports would have “adverse implications for the security aspects for the use of passports” and “result in substantial administrative costs”.
Christie Elan-Cane told PinkNews per is “angry”, “furious”, “disappointed” but “not surprised” at the verdict – and confirmed that the case will now go to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France.
Speaking in the hours after the Supreme Court unanimously dismissed per case against the Home Office policy of only offering ‘M’ and ‘F’ markers on passports, Elan-Cane called the judgment “an abomination” and added: “Justice was not served today.”
Elan-Cane continued: “I am not surprised but I am taken aback by some of the language in the judgement, which was quite appalling. It [the judgment] seems to me to be so pre-decided, effectively repeating the government’s line almost verbatim in cases. If they knew the outcome from the beginning then why did they grant permission in the first place?
“We could have gone directly to Strasbourg, we could have been in the queue waiting. [The Supreme Court] basically wasted a whole year.”
Elan-Cane, who is non-gendered and whose pronouns are per/per/perself, has campaigned for almost 30 years to achieve legal and social recognition.
The case dismissed by the Supreme Court was first heard by the High Court in 2018, and that judgment was appealed at the Court of Appeal in 2020. The case concerns HM Passport Office’s policy that only ‘M’ or ‘F’ gender markers are available in British passports.
Elan-Cane lost both legal fights, but both the High Court and the Court of Appeal ruled that per right to respect for private life is engaged under the European Convention on Human Rights.
As it stands, applicants for a UK passport must indicate whether they are male or female in a signed declaration. Elan-Cane argues that it is discriminatory for the UK Home Office to refuse to offer passports with an ‘X’ gender marker for people who are not male or female, such as non-binary people, agender people and non-gendered people like perself.
Christie Elan-Cane points to countries like Australia and New Zealand, which have had X passports “for years”, saying “so it is the UK yet again on the wrong side of history”.
And per said that this defeat will not stop per legal fight for recognition: “I’m not crushed. If they think that I’m going to go away… I think they see me as this blue bottle [fly] or something.
“Every time they try to swat me away I come back at them. This isn’t over.”
Christie Elan-Cane was represented pro bono by law firm Clifford Chance.