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UK government to include transgender people in conversion therapy ban bill

Boris Johnson backed measure without gender identity

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(Photo courtesy of 10 Downing St.)

Michelle Donelan, a Conservative MP for Chippenham, and Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has confirmed that the Tory-led government will publish a draft conversion therapy ban that will “protect everyone,” following nearly a year of outrage over the exclusion of transgender people.

In a statement released Tuesday, Donelan wrote:

“We recognize the strength of feeling on the issue of harmful conversion practices and remain committed to protecting people from these practices and making sure they can live their lives free from the threat of harm or abuse.

We have had constructive engagement with the honorable member for Rutland and Melton on her amendment which seeks to prevent children from seeing harmful online content on conversion practices.

It is right that this issue is tackled through a dedicated and tailored legislative approach, which is why we are announcing today that the government will publish a draft bill which will set out a proposed approach to ban conversion practices, this will apply to England and Wales. The bill will protect everyone, including those targeted on the basis of their sexuality, or being transgender.

The government will publish the draft bill shortly and will ask for pre-legislative scrutiny by a joint committee in this parliamentary session.

This is a complex area, and pre-legislative scrutiny exists to help ensure that any bill introduced to parliament does not cause unintended consequences. It will also ensure that the bill benefits from stakeholder expertise and input from parliamentarians.

The legislation must not, through a lack of clarity, harm the growing number of children and young adults experiencing gender-related distress, through inadvertently criminalizing or chilling legitimate conversations parents or clinicians may have with their children.”

PinkNewsUK reported that Donelan announcing the draft, which will arrive “shortly,” appears to confirm reports that Equalities Minister Kemi Badenoch will not oversee the ban. Badenoch has faced much criticism from the LGBTQ community over her trans-hostile statements.

It comes after then-Prime Minister Boris Johnson dropped plans for a legislative ban in March 2022, only to U-turn by moving ahead with a ban that would protect LGB people only.

The Conservative government first promised a conversion therapy ban in 2018 under Theresa May’s leadership.

The latest announcement was met with a cautious response owing to the government’s continued flip-flopping on the ban, and in light of its latest attack on LGBTQ rights — its move to block Scotland’s gender recognition reform.

In an interview with PinkNewsUK Stonewall Chief Executive Nancy Kelley expressed optimism but was guarded in her reaction to the news.

“Almost five years since the U.K. government first promised to ban conversion practices in 2018, we have faced delay after delay,” Kelly said. “The U.K. government must publish the bill and an imminent timetable as soon as possible.”

“The U.K. government’s own National LGBT Survey shows that 13 percent of trans people, and seven percent of all LGBTQIA+ people have undergone or been offered so-called conversion therapy. Our communities simply cannot face any further delays,” she added.

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United Kingdom

UK government to block Scotland transgender rights bill

Nicola Sturgeon ‘will never apologize for trying to spread equality’

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(Photo by Rob Wilson via Bigstock)

In tersely worded public statements to the media and on Twitter, Scottish First Minster Nicola Sturgeon castigated the conservative government of U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak for announcing Monday that Westminster would block Scotland’s Gender Recognition Reform Bill from being signed into law by King Charles III.

The Gender Recognition Reform Bill introduced by the Scottish government to Holyrood (Parliament) last spring was passed in a final 86-39 vote days before this past Christmas. The sweeping reform bill modifies the Gender Recognition Act, signed into law in 2004, by allowing transgender Scots to gain legal recognition without the need for a medical diagnosis.

The measure further stipulates that age limit for legal recognition is lowered to 16.

The U.K. Secretary of State for Scotland, Alister Jack, released a statement indicating that with the backing of 10 Downing Street, he will use a Section 35 order under the Scotland Act to block the king’s signature which is referred to as royal assent.

Under Section 35 of the Scotland Act, U.K. ministers can stop a bill getting royal assent. Jack can do so if he is of the opinion that a Holyrood bill would modify laws reserved to Westminster and have an “adverse effect” on how those laws apply.

“I have decided to make an order under Section 35 of the Scotland Act 1998, preventing the Scottish Parliament’s Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill from proceeding to royal assent,” Jack said in a statement released Monday afternoon.

“After thorough and careful consideration of all the relevant advice and the policy implications, I am concerned that this legislation would have an adverse impact on the operation of Great Britain-wide equalities legislation. 

“Transgender people who are going through the process to change their legal sex deserve our respect, support and understanding. My decision today is about the legislation’s consequences for the operation of GB-wide equalities protections and other reserved matters. 

“I have not taken this decision lightly. The bill would have a significant impact on, amongst other things, GB-wide equalities matters in Scotland, England and Wales. I have concluded, therefore, that this is the necessary and correct course of action. 

“If the Scottish government chooses to bring an amended bill back for reconsideration in the Scottish Parliament, I hope we can work together to find a constructive way forward that both respects devolution and the operation of U.K. Parliament legislation. 

“I have written today to the first minister and the Scottish Parliament’s presiding officer informing them of my decision,” he said.

Holyrood Scottish Parliament building in Edinburgh (Photo courtesy of Scottish Parliament)

The first minister has defended her government’s action on the GRA Reform legislation and speaking before the vote said that [she] “will never apologize for trying to spread equality.”

“Removing the need for medical diagnosis for a trans person who wants to legally change their gender is one of the purposes of this legislation because that is one of the most traumatic and dehumanising parts of the current system,” Sturgeon said.

Addressing the opposition and Tory arguments that the GRA reform bill harms women and girls the first minister said:

“As a woman, I know what it’s like to live with the fear at times of potential violence from men.

“I’m a feminist and I will do everything that I can to protect women’s rights for as long as live, but I also think it’s an important part of my responsibility to make life a little bit easier for stigmatised minorities in our country, to make their lives a bit better and remove some of the trauma they live with on a day-to-day basis and I think it is important to do that for the tiny minority of trans people in our society and I will never apologize for trying to spread equality, not reduce it, in our country.”

In London, U.K. equalities minister Kemi Badenoch has made it clear she is against reforms. Badenoch suggested the Scottish bill could have a detrimental impact on the rest of the U.K. because it would not be possible for the legislation to be “fully contained” within Scotland.

She addressed those concerns in a letter she sent to Sturgeon that was leaked to the Times last month.

Sturgeon said that she thinks it would be an “outrage” if the Tory-led government blocks the Scottish gender recognition bill, and will “embolden them” to block more bills, creating a “very slippery slope.”

“The Scottish government will defend the legislation and stand up for Scotland’s parliament,” she said adding, “If this Westminster veto succeeds, it will be the first of many.”

Sturgeon’s reference to the “slippery slope” details the rancor between Downing Street and Edinburgh over a proposed second referendum for Scottish independence. The referendum held in 2014 had failed by 55 percent to 45 percent, but things have changed since then, mostly because of Brexit. The Tory led U.K. government has repeatedly said it will not allow second referendum and this past November ruled the Scottish government cannot unilaterally hold a second independence referendum.

MSP Maggie Chapman, equalities spokesperson for the Scottish Greens, told PinkNews that the Tory government could “destroy devolution” if it tried to stop Scotland’s gender reform bill. She also warned that intervention could trigger a bitter legal battle.

“If they actually go through with their threat to either block the bill from receiving royal assent or block the implementation of it … I think that signals that this becomes about something much more than the issue of self-declaration — this becomes a constitutional crisis, I think,” Chapman told PinkNews.

Chapman also said she is “100 percent certain” that the Scottish government would challenge the decision in court, resulting in a legal war that could set precedent for other cases.

Pink News also reported that Jayne Ozanne, a former equalities advisor to the Tory government, said she “couldn’t believe” the prime minister had signed off on Section 35 being invoked “to undermine trans people’s rights.”

“This is a very dark day,” she said.

“The international community will be appalled. The LGBTQ+ community, alongside our friends and allies, will be furious and the British people will look on amazed.

“All will rightly wonder why [Sunak] has chosen to focus on one of the most marginalized and misunderstood groups in our society at a time of crisis in both our NHS (National Health Service) and public services.

“I believe it is the beginning of the end for the United Kingdom, and few will forgive him for it.”

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United Kingdom

Scotland lawmakers pass transgender rights bill

Tories in London have threatened to block measure

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(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The Gender Recognition Reform bill introduced by the Scottish government last spring was passed in the country’s Parliament in a final 86-39 vote Thursday. The sweeping reform bill modifies the Gender Recognition Act, signed into law in 2004, by allowing transgender Scots to gain legal recognition without the need for a medical diagnosis.

The measure further stipulates that age limit for legal recognition is lowered to 16.

Colin MacFarlane, director for Stonewall Scotland and Northern Ireland at the U.K.’s largest LGBTQ advocacy and rights organization, in a statement released after the vote called the bill’s passage “a tremendous step forward for trans rights and for LGBTQ people in Scotland.”

“It brings Scotland into line with international best practice and once again establishes itself as a world leader on human rights, by making a small change which brings dignity to trans people who deserve to be legally recognised for who they are,” MacFarlane said.

“The U.K. government must now follow and introduce legislation to ensure that trans people U.K.-wide have access to the same standards of human rights,” he added.

Passage of the measure on which Holyrood (the Scottish Parliament) commenced debate earlier this week, was acrimonious and at times heated PinkNewsUK reported, as Tories opposed to the measure forced a vote on the timetable late Tuesday into the early morning hours of Wednesday for considering the amendments to the legislation and raised further motions as well as points of order before the debate on the more than 150 amendments to the bill began.

The measure in Scotland was introduced after years of delay in Westminster by the U.K. government and its Parliament. PinkNewsUK journalist Maggie Baska noted:

“At present, trans people in the U.K. must apply to a gender recognition panel and present a diagnosis of gender dysphoria — a laborious process that can take years due to the incredibly long wait times at NHS gender clinics. People can only apply to be legally recognized as male or female — nonbinary genders are not legally recognized in the U.K.

Applicants must provide two medical reports, and at least one needs to include details of any gender-affirming treatments or healthcare the individual plans to have. It also needs to confirm a diagnosis of gender dysphoria. 

The individual must also prove they’ve lived in their ‘acquired’ gender for at least two years, and they must swear they intend to do so for the rest of their lives. This can include evidence showing they’ve used a different name in official documents or changed their gender on their driving license or passport.

Additionally, the period in which applicants need to have lived in their acquired gender will be cut to three months or six months for people aged 16 and 17. There is also a new requirement of a ‘waiting period’ of three months after applying when an individual must reconfirm their wish to receive the GRC. 

It will no longer be a requirement to submit detailed evidence of the individual living as the other gender. 

Trans people wanting to change their legal gender will still need to swear an oath about remaining as their authentic gender for life, and it will continue to be a criminal offence to knowingly make a false application for a GRC.”

Proponents of the GRA Reform Bill put forth in Holyrood argued that the current process is too invasive and causes distress to trans people, who already face marginalization and stigmatization. 

With today’s vote, Tories are vowing to block its signature into law by King Charles III, known as Royal Assent, by use of a Section 35 order. In the U.K. system of government, a Section 35 order is intended to prevent laws passed by the Scottish Parliament having “an adverse effect on the operation of the law as it applies to reserved matters.”

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has defended her government’s action on the GRA Reform legislation and speaking before the vote said that [she] “will never apologize for trying to spread equality.”

“Removing the need for medical diagnosis for a trans person who wants to legally change their gender is one of the purposes of this legislation because that is one of the most traumatic and dehumanising parts of the current system,” Sturgeon said.

Addressing the opposition and Tory arguments that the GRA Reform bill harms women and girls the first minister said:

“As a woman, I know what it’s like to live with the fear at times of potential violence from men.

“I’m a feminist and I will do everything that I can to protect women’s rights for as long as live, but I also think it’s an important part of my responsibility to make life a little bit easier for stigmatised minorities in our country, to make their lives a bit better and remove some of the trauma they live with on a day-to-day basis and I think it is important to do that for the tiny minority of trans people in our society and I will never apologise for trying to spread equality, not reduce it, in our country.”

In London, U.K. Equalities Minister Kemi Badenoch has made it clear she is against reforms. Badenoch suggested the Scottish bill could have a detrimental impact on the rest of the U.K. because it would not be possible for the legislation to be “fully contained” within Scotland.

She addressed those concerns in a letter she sent to Sturgeon that was leaked to the Times earlier this month.

According to the Guardian newspaper, Alister Jack, the U.K. government’s Scottish secretary, has hinted that Whitehall might block the gender recognition reform. In a statement released after the vote Jack said:

“We share the concerns that many people have regarding certain aspects of this bill, and in particular the safety issues for women and children.

We will look closely at that, and also the ramifications for the 2010 Equality Act and other U.K. wide legislation, in the coming weeks — up to and including a section 35 order stopping the bill going for royal assent if necessary.”

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United Kingdom

Rishi Sunak named new British prime minister

LGBTQ activists have mixed views towards new government

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(Graphic courtesy of Los Angeles Blade)

Following the resignation of Liz Truss, her 44 days in office — the shortest tenure of any British prime minister in history last Thursday — the Conservative Party met Monday and named has Rishi Sunak as the new Tory party leader.

Sunak’s rise to head of the party came after after the only other candidate, Penny Mordaunt, dropped out of the race. Former Prime Minister Boris Johnson had hinted at a potential challenge to return but abruptly announced Sunday that he was not in the running to get his old job back.

The 42-year-old Sunak is one of the wealthiest people in Britain, his wealth exceeds the fortune of the British monarchy itself. The Washington Post noted that the former banker, and his wife, Indian tech heiress Akshata Murty, have an estimated fortune of about 730 million pounds ($827 million), according to the “Sunday Times” Rich List. On the 2022 list, the monarch was estimated to have about 370 million pounds ($419 million) by comparison.

Leading British LGBTQ daily publication PinkNewsUK notes that for Britain’s LGBTQ community there are divisions over Sunak’s taking over. Jayne Ozanne, the former government LGBTQ advisor and anti-conversion therapy campaigner, was among those to congratulate Sunak PinkNewsUK reported.

Ozanne told PinkNews: “In congratulating Mr. Sunak on his appointment as prime minister, I would urge him to prioritize the needs of those who are feeling the most vulnerable and scared at this time of extreme uncertainty. This includes members of the LGBT+ community, many of whom live in constant fear given the toxic nature of the debate over trans rights, exemplified by soaring hate crime statistics.”

“He has an opportunity to address these concerns directly by giving a clear commitment to a full ban on ‘conversion therapy’ and abolishing the barbaric Rwanda asylum policy. Moreover, I hope he will look to reset the clock in relation to the Tory party’s disastrous relationship with the LGBT+ community over the past few years.”

Others in the British LGBTQ community were less enthusiastic the news site reported.

Longtime human rights and LGBTQ rights activist Peter Tatchell told PinkNewsUK:

“Rishi offered nothing to the LGBT+ community during his leadership campaign,” he said. “I am not hopeful about any progress on banning conversion therapy or reform of the Gender Recognition Act under his premiership.”

Tatchell called for an immediate election, adding: “Rishi has no mandate for anything. He was not elected by the British people. He was selected by a tiny group of just over 100 Tory MPs.

“There has to be a general election to ensure that our prime minister and his policies have a public mandate.

“Changing prime minister and government policies twice without an election is not democratic.”

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