British government blocks Scottish law to ease legal gender change

Supporters of the Gender Recognition Reform Bill (Scotland) take part in a protest outside the Scottish Parliament, ahead of a debate on the bill, in Edinburgh. Tuesday, Dec. 20, 2022. A plan by Scotland’s government to make it easier for people to change gender has sparked acrimonious debate, with lawmakers arguing inside the Edinburgh parliament and rival groups of protesters demonstrating outside. A bill introduced by the Scottish National Party-led government will allow people to change gender by self-declaration, removing the need for a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria. (Jane Barlow/PA via AP)

The British government on Monday blocked a Scottish law that would have made it easier for people to change their gender for legal purposes.

The Scottish law would allow people to transition by self-declaration, instead of requiring a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria. The Scottish government said the move would ensure people could get official documents that align with their gender identity more easily.

Scottish Secretary Alister Jack said in a statement Monday that he prevented the bill from proceeding any further, saying that he was “concerned” that it would impact equalities legislation in Great Britain.

“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,” Jack said.

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

The bill attracted a lot of scrutiny in Scotland, with opponents arguing it would undermine women’s rights. Author J.K. Rowling, who has taken criticism for her anti-transgender remarks and positions, voiced her opposition to the bill in a Twitter post last fall, saying she stood in “solidarity” with the women protesting it.

The Scottish Parliament passed the bill in December, and was backed by the Scottish National Party.

Jack said in the statement that he would be willing to reconsider an amended bill about the issue in the future, but that the present bill would have had “significant” impacts on Scotland, England and Wales.

“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 UK Parliament legislation,” he said in the statement.

Tags Alister Jack Scotland Scottish transgender law Transgender rights United Kingdom

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