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Transsexuals win right to marry

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Transsexuals win right to marry

Kamal Ahmed, political editor

Sunday July 6, 2003

The Observer


Britain's 5,000 transsexuals who have gone through a full medical sex change are to be given the legal right to marry and have the gender changed on their birth certificate.

In a move that the Government will promote as another step to treating everyone equally, whatever their sexuality, the new Constitutional Affairs Department will announce a Bill to bring about the changes in the next fortnight.

The Bill will introduce laws which mean that employers cannot demand to know a person's sexual history, and that anyone who has gone through a sex change should be treated as the sex they are after the operation.

It will also say that insurance companies must treat transsexuals as the sex of their choice and that the Government must allow men who have changed their sex to female to claim their state pension at the age of 60.

Transsexuals have lived in legal limbo for decades. At present they are not legally allowed to marry someone of the opposite sex, as their birth certificate still carries the gender they were born with.

This means that they are allowed to marry someone of the same sex even though it is illegal for anyone else. If convicted of a crime, women who have changed sex to male face being sent to a male prison.

Although the move to change the law will be welcomed by campaigners, it is likely to be attacked by Church organisations, which will say it undermines the traditional family.

Whitehall sources admitted that the Government could be seen as becoming obsessed with what were described as 'narrow sectional interests'.

'Obviously it is not exactly mainstream, but it shows that when we talk about equality, we mean it,' said one official.

Last week the Government announced that rights for gay couples would be brought into line with those of heterosexual married couples.

Officially registered gay partnerships will have the same pension and divorce rights as other marriages.

The Government's move on transsexuals came after the European Court of Rights ruled in 2002 that the Government's failure to recognise people who have changed their sex breached the European Convention on Human Rights, which has been incorporated into British law.

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