Senator Katherine Zappone:
It gives me such great pleasure to welcome you here today for the launch of the ‘Legal Recognition of Gender Bill’ that I am publishing , co-sponsored by two of my Independent colleagues Senators Fiach Mac Conghail and Jillian Van Turnhout. Let this bill be an acknowledgment and celebration of the dignity, courage, freedom and beauty of transgender people.
This bill represents an effort by us as lawmakers to take seriously the responsibility of our jobs – namely – to make laws. In this instance, to make a law that catches up with the reality of the day to day lives of many of our citizens, those who are transgender, younger and older.
Ireland is the last and only EU country that does not recognise legally transgender citizens in their true or preferred gender. Though Dr. Lydia Foy applied twenty years ago to the Registrar General for a new birth certificate to reflect her chosen gender, she was refused and has fought several court battles in Ireland and Europe since that time. Irish lawmakers still have not enacted law that provides a mechanism for transgender people to change their gender in a way that respects their dignity, freedom and privacy.
This is why I have decided to act with publication of this bill. I am painfully aware of the incredible injustice and discrimination that the transgender community in Ireland has had to endure for such a long time when their rights should have been recognised. It is their bravery and determination that has inspired this bill. This bill seeks to ensure the dignity of transgender people and protect their right to self-determine their identity.
It is also a bill that does not require a transgender person to be single in order to access their human rights. While the Government’s Advisory group recommended that married transpeople should be required to divorce their spouses as a precondition to legal recognition, I believe that this would be a gross interference with the private and family lives of the people concerned. Instead the legislation I am proposing would simply provide for legal recognition without any interference with their marital status or family relationships.
I am aware that either proposal could lead to a constitutional challenge but I have taken legal advice and I am satisfied that there is a strong and good legal case for what I am proposing.
I also believe that in this time of rapidly changing attitudes to gender and sexual identity and marriage, the courts, seeking to interpret the Constitution as a living document, will be very likely to accept the solution adopted by the Oireachtas as it speaks for the people.
Lawmakers have the responsibility to act. I urge the Government and the Oireachtas to take a human rights approach to these issues. With the legal advice I have received, I am confident that our Courts will be deferential to the legislative choice.
To conclude I wish to express gratitude to those who assisted me in the drafting of this bill, barrister Mr David Dodds of PILA, Dr Tanya Ni Mhurtaile, and Dr. Fergus Ryan both legal and human rights experts, Mr Michael Farrell of FLAC and Broden Giambrone and Orlaith O’Sullivan of TENI and Anna MacCarthy. It is a bill of and for the community.
A copy of the Bill can be found here