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Catholic MSP welcomes gender bill postponement as COVID-19 takes precedence

An MSP has welcomed the shelving of a bill that could see Scottish gender recognition laws changed.

Elaine Smith, MSP for Central Scotland and practising Catholic, says the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill is ‘unnecessary’ and welcomed the fact that it has been temporarily postponed until next year as the COVID-19 crisis continues to sweep across the UK.

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.

Mrs Smith, a business manager for the Labour group in the Scottish Parliament, is involved in discussion on how legislation and motions are managed.

COVID-19

She explained that the Scottish Parliament already had a ‘challenging amount of business to be dealt with’ before the COVID-19 crisis began, stating they now have emergency legislation to discuss and scrutinise, and that parliament currently is only meeting once a week and has gone into recess because of the virus.

“The Business Managers of all parties have worked out what to prioritise at this difficult and unprecedented time,” she said.

“The Gender Recognition Bill had not even been presented at Stage one of the total three stages bills must go through, and, as such, it would not have been realistic to make this one of the business priorities for the parliament.

“Time is needed to consider the submissions made to the consultation which only closed a couple of weeks ago and, as with all bills, thorough scrutiny of legislation takes time.”

Parliamentary discussion

Although the gender bill has been put on the back-burner and will be back in discussion next year, Mrs Smith says the fallout from the COVID-19 crisis will be at the forefront of parliamentary discussion, as people have lost their jobs and businesses across the country have closed down.

“I cannot see any circumstances in which new legislation such as gender recognition will become a priority,” she added.

“Indeed, we already have made a meaningful transition to apply for a gender recognition certificate if they wish to; and many trans women and transmit support that existing legislation.”

Mrs Smith says she questions whether any changes are needed to current gender recognition laws in Scotland, adding that she believes it is fully compliant with the European Court of Human Rights.

Bill

“I have listened to many trans people who feel that the bill is not needed and many women who feel threatened by its possible consequences. There has been a lot of misinformation around the proposals, which often results in anyone who opposes or questions this being portrayed as against equality.

“That is clearly not the case for the majority of people and, in addition to being a questionable piece on proposed legislation, the consequences for women and their protected spaces has not been properly addressed.”

Mrs Smith has also criticised the proposed legislation on the grounds that it ‘lacks a working definition of what ‘living in the acquired gender’ means; which is vital as a false declaration would be a criminal offence.’

Sceptical

She added: “Three months before applying for a gender recognition certificate and three months after it is just too short a time to consider the full ramifications of what that means.

“In my opinion, lowering the age to 16 is too young, especially given the growing number of young people who have gone through hormone treatment and surgery and now want to ‘detransition.’

“Unfortunately as yet the Scottish Government does not seem to have listened to their concerns.”

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