BY Peter Diamond | February 28 2020 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print

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Calls for Catholics to help halt Scot Gov ‘dangerous’ gender proposals

Two MSPs voice concerns as Church urge people to engage with consultation.

The Church this week urged Catholics to engage with a consultation and help halt Scottish Government’s ‘dangerous’ proposals to change the Gender Recognition Act as two MSPs also warned against the changes.

Proposed changes from the Scottish Government include lowering the age limit for people who wish to legally change their gender from 18 to 16 and reducing the required time spent living in their preferred gender from two years to three months on the grounds that they intend to do so permanently.

Labour MSP Elaine Smith and SNP MSP John Mason has warned against a variety of proposed changes, while the Church in Scotland has stated it would be a ‘catastrophe’ if Scotland were to ‘sleepwalk’ into changing the law.

The Church has also shown concern regarding the safety of puberty blockers, highlighting their usage remains an ‘experimental treatment.’
The consultation opened in December 2019 and will close in just over two weeks on March 17.

Church warning

A spokesman for the Church in Scotland warned against the proposed changes.
He said: “It would be a catastrophe if Scotland were to sleepwalk into changing the law, simply because too few people registered their concerns via the Scottish Government’s consultation.

“It only takes a few minutes to access the online response form and to make it clear that there is no public support for such a radical legal reform with many risks for women and children.”

Last week, the UK Government dropped similar plans around gender reforms, citing concerns about the impact on children.
This led to calls for the Scottish Government to follow suit, with the Catholic Church in Scotland saying it was a ‘sensible move that should prompt the Scottish Government to take stock.’

It is anticipated that in the coming days Scottish bishops will ask priests to urge their parishioners to respond to the consultation and oppose proposals.
There are huge concerns from critics of the reforms around the reduction in timescales a person must live in their preferred gender for it to become legally changeable.
MSP John Mason, who represents Glasgow Shettleston, said the proposed ‘three months is a very short time.’
He added: “Young people take two or three years at secondary school to prepare for a university course. Many people get engaged and wait a year or more before getting married. It could be argued that applying for a Gender Recognition Certificate is more serious than either of these. Therefore, I would suggest that the current two years requirement is not unreasonable.”

Status Quo

Pressure groups have also called for the Scottish Government to give children under 16 the right to change their gender.
Mr Mason rejected the calls, stating the status quo is suitable. He said: “I am not arguing for the present system to become more restrictive so I would accept the period living in the acquired gender and the period of reflection combined should be two years.”

He added: “Continuing my previous line or argument, this is a very serious decision and potentially more serious than other decisions that young people aged 16 make. Therefore, I would support keeping the age at 18.”
Other fears include cases such as that of Karen White, a biological male and convicted rapist who identified as a woman, was sent to a women’s prison and went on to sexually assault inmates.

Currently there are 11 prisoners in Scottish jails who identify as transgender, of whom only one has a gender recognition certificate. There are another five people in male prisons who are transwomen and five in female prisons who are transmen.
MSP Elaine Smith, a Catholic, who represents Central Scotland, highlighted concerns among her constituents, as well as the impact the changes to the law could have for women.

Constituents’ concern

The Labour politician said: “A number of concerns have been raised with me by constituents, and the consultation process allows these to be examined in more detail. It is important to stress that, as an MSP, I have a duty to thoroughly scrutinise any proposed changes in the law”

“I have been able to attend a number of meetings in the Parliament which have been examining any potential impact the changes may have on women’s rights. Whilst I have my own concerns, I will await the Scottish Government’s conclusions following the close of the consultations.

“I would remind everyone that this is a public consultation, and it is important that individuals and organisations submit their views.”
The Church also complained that ministers were ‘pushing things very far and very fast’.

Letter to government

In April last year, 15 SNP politicians signed a letter urging the government not to ‘rush’ into ‘changing the definition of male and female.’
The letter was signed by government ministers Ivan McKee, Ash Denham and Kate Forbes, SNP MSPs Joan McAlpine, Ruth Maguire, Kenneth Gibson and Christine Grahame, and MPs Carol Monaghan, Patricia Gibson, Joanna Cherry and Angus Macneil.

SNP councillors Chris McEleny, Shaun Macaulay, Caroline McAllister and Lynne Anderson were also signatories.

Last week, Scottish cabinet secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville said the government wanted to achieve consensus with proposals that allow a person to change their legal sex on self-declaration alone. She confirmed that it was the government’s intention that gender self-identification would become law before the Holyrood elections in May 2021.

The Catholic Parliamentary Office has prepared a four-page briefing to help people engage with the consultation process. To access the public consultation, visit www.consult.gov.scot/family-law/gender-recognition-reform-scotland-bill/.

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