• Wed. Feb 28th, 2024

Court rules in favour of UK government veto on Gender Recognition Reform Bill

ByMaryse Bots

Dec 8, 2023
The exterior of the High Court Of Justiciary And Court Of Session in Edinburgh

The UK Government’s decision to block the Gender Recognition Reform Bill in Scotland has been ruled as lawful on 8 December by the Court of Session – Scotland’s highest civil court.

The ruling made by Lady Haldane states:

“It follows from all of the foregoing analysis that the challenge to the Order pronounced under section 35 of the 1998 Act, laid on 17 January 2023, fails.” 

Last year the Scottish government passed the Bill which would make it easier for people to change their legally recognised sex.

The Gender Recognition (Reform) Bill was passed with 86 votes ‘For’ and 39 votes ‘Against’ after a heated debate between MSPs. 

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However, the bill was consequently blocked by the UK government after claims it would be “highly problematic” to have two different gender recognition systems within the UK. 

Scottish Secretary Alister Jack made the unprecedented decision to use the Section 35 of the Scotland Act, which prevented the act from receiving royal assent. He further argued that it would harmfully impact the Equality Act (2010).

The Scottish government subsequently launched a legal challenge against this decision with the Court of Session, with the court holding the hearings between the 19-21 September this year. 

The appeal was based on the insufficient reasons for the use of Section 35 of the Scotland Act by the UK government, and therefore did not specifically rule on the contents of the bill but on the legality of the veto. 

Jack welcomed the decision made by the court, as it “upholds my decision to prevent the Scottish government’s gender recognition legislation from becoming law.”

He further commented:

“I was clear that this legislation would have had adverse effects on the operation of the law as it applies to reserved matters, including on important Great Britain-wide equality protections.

“Following this latest court defeat for the Scottish government, their ministers need to stop wasting taxpayers’ money pursuing needless legal action and focus on the real issues which matter to people in Scotland – such as growing the economy and cutting waiting lists.”

First Minister Humza Yousaf responded to the decision on X (formerly Twitter), saying:

“This is a dark day for devolution. Sovereignty should lie with the people of Scotland, not a Westminster Government we didn’t vote for with the ability to overrule our laws. 

“We, of course, respect the Court’s judgement and will take time to consider its findings.”

He added that “the only way to guarantee we get true self-government is through independence.”

Vic Valentine, Scottish Trans’ Manager, commented to The Student on the ruling:

“We are really concerned that this judgement, if left unchallenged, means that trans people will continue to have to use the intrusive, unfair and expensive process for being legally recognised as who we truly are that a majority of MSPs voted to significantly improve last year – and so we urge the Scottish Government to appeal.”

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The bill would lower the minimum age that someone could apply for a legal change of gender from 18 to 16, although under 18s would need to have lived as their acquired gender for six months. 

Additionally, people wanting to change their gender would not require a gender dysphoria diagnosis after the implementation of this bill. 

The Scottish government has 21 days to appeal this decision. Once it has gone through the Scottish courts, the decision will lie with the UK Supreme Court. 

File:High Court Of Justiciary And Court Of Session, Edinburgh 2.jpg” by LornaMCampbell is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0.