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A major step forward for the trans community has been stopped in its tracks after the UK Government announced its intention to block the Scottish Government’s new Gender Recognition Reform bill.

The bill, passed only last month, would have facilitated trans people’s process of legally changing their gender identity. Trans people aged 16 and over would have been able to self-identify as trans without requiring any medical diagnosis. It is designed to help the trans community live their lives as their authentic self with the correct documents.

Sunak’s Government Takes Steps to Invoke Section 35 of the Scotland Act

This is the first time that any Westminster government has used a Section 35 order to block a Scottish bill. Under section 35 of the Scotland Act, a UK secretary of state is allowed to block a bill from getting ‘royal assent’ if they have justified reason to believe that this law would have an adverse effect on the legislation reserved to Westminster. In this case, it was Alister Jack, the Scottish secretary, who stated that Scotland’s Gender Recognition Reform bill would go against the UK Equality Act 2010.

Under the UK’s Gender Recognition Act (2004), the process of obtaining a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC) is not as simple as Scotland’s GRR bill. The Act only allows a trans person to obtain a GRC after receiving a medical diagnosis and living as their authentic self for a minimum of two years. However, in the GRR bill, trans people can obtain a GRC without a medical diagnosis requirement. They also only have to live as their authentic selves for six months. Thus, expanding the definition of woman.

The Reaction in Scotland and Wider UK

Scotland’s bill has long been debated, with a promise to deliver the bill present in two successive SNP manifestos. The GRR has been endorsed by many women’s and LGBTQ+ organisations, such as the Scottish Women’s Rights Centre. People have already started protesting Westminster’s decision.

Conservative Ministers have stated that this law would have conflicted with the ‘equality protections’ applied across the entire country. This is a weak excuse to mask their bigotry as concerns for protection.

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has claimed the move to be a ‘full-frontal attack’ on the Scottish Parliament, while Shonda Robinson MSP has called the move to block the GRR bill ‘harmful to trans people’. Robinson says that the Scottish Government is ‘absolutely determined to vigorously defend the Bill’. According to Robinson, at no point during the bill’s development did the Conservative government ask to amend its provisions.

This further fuels suspicions that they have intervened in the bill for political expediency. It was part of a morally bankrupt ‘culture war’, rather than reasons of good faith. This makes Alister Jack’s claims that he wants to find a ‘constructive way forward’ seem almost farcical.

GenderGP Condemns the Blocking of the Gender Recognition Reform Bill

GenderGP is dismayed by the UK Government’s decision to block the Gender Recognition Reform bill. This bill is the result of considerable deliberation, supported by many LGBTQ+ groups in both Scotland and the wider UK. A moment of progress for the trans community has been turned into another ‘culture-war’ battleground for a Conservative government mired in corruption, haemorrhaging support and legitimacy.

We stand firmly behind the trans and gender diverse community in the UK. We condemn the actions of a reckless government that is determined to attack the trans community and other minority rights. Trans rights are human rights!