BY Ryan McDougall | April 2 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print

gender bill

Church welcomes gender bill delay, but warns it is a ‘temporary move’

The Catholic Parliamentary Office and an MSP have welcomed a government decision to shelve the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill due to coronavirus.

The parliamentary office warned however, that the move remains ’temporary’ as it will be considered after the pandemic has come to an end.

On Wednesday April 1, the Scottish Government announced it had paused reforms to the Gender Recognition Act and would not resume during the current parliamentary term, which will end ahead of the Holyrood election in May next year.

The proposed changes to the bill would allow lowering the age for people who wish to legally change their gender from 18 to 16 and reducing the required time living in their preferred gender from two years to three months on the grounds they intend to do so permanently.

Other legislation

Other proposed legislation has also been put on hold, including the tourist tax and fox control, with Brexit legislation also being delayed.

Anthony Horan, Catholic parliamentary officer for Scotland, said: “it is now highly unlikely that the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill will be scrutinised by parliament before it rises in March for next year’s May election.

:It is not even certain when the government will be in a position to analyse the responses to its recent consultation on the bill.”

Future consideration

Mr Horan welcomed the move, but noted it will indeed be back on the cards once the coronavirus crisis is over.

He said: “The decision to shelve reform of gender recognition legislation, though not surprising in the circumstances, is welcome. However, it remains a temporary move.”

John Mason, SNP MSP for Glasgow Shettleston, told the SCO that due to the coronavirus, ‘most new legislation is generally the least of our worries.’

He added: “Yesterday the government set out changes to its legislative programme given the current circumstances. Clearly they are giving priority to what they consider the most urgent bills.

“But I suspect this will continue to evolve as we move ahead. Two bills which are not going ahead for the time being are hate crime and gender recognition.”

Consultation

Mr Mason’s main concern with the bill was the self-identification changes. He added: “I have set out my thinking on this as a response to the government consultation and all of that still stands. Basically, I believe sex is God-given and is discovered at birth—or maybe even before birth nowadays!

“As a rule, sex is fixed as are the other facts on the birth certificate like the parents’ names, the place, and the date of birth. I would have preferred if the bill had been shelved based on the substantive arguments rather than because of the current circumstances.

“However, I am certainly willing to accept any delay or even cancellation. My hope would be that this delay and the break in momentum for these changes might lead to a permanent change of direction on the part of the government and supporters of self-identification.

Issues of life

“This pandemic is challenging a lot of assumptions we have made in our modern materialistic society and I hope we will all reflect on how we can focus more on the core issues of life as we go forward.

“Therefore, I do hope that the proposals will be permanently dropped but clearly there is a potential for them to return, perhaps after the next Scottish Parliament elections.”

The Bishops’ Conference of Scotland previously urged the Scottish Government not to proceed with ‘radical legal reforms or expose children to radical treatments.’

The bishops argued the changes would risk creating ‘medical, social and legal complications which will be difficult to resolve and damaging to those involved, particularly children and women.’

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