Ryan on Gender Recognition and Marriage

Dr Fergus Ryan is a lecturer in law at the Dublin Institute of Technology.

When I first encountered Family Law as a discipline, the burning issue of the day was divorce.  Prior to 1995, divorce was constitutionally prohibited.  A prominent theme in the family law classes of the time was whether estranged married couples should be allowed to divorce and remarry.  It never crossed my mind that married couples might at some future point be required to divorce, against their collective wish to remain married.

When divorce was finally introduced it was nonetheless firmly considered a last resort, to be employed only when all else failed.  This is evidenced by the lengthy living apart requirement – four out of the previous five years – and the stipulation that a divorce will only be granted if there is no reasonable prospect of reconciliation. Divorce legislation requires, moreover, that, prior to commencing litigation, parties be advised of alternatives to divorce.

The Gender Recognition Advisory Group (GRAG), in its report to the Minister for Social Protection on gender recognition legislation, recommended that transgender applicants who meet certain conditions should be allowed to access a gender recognition certificate. This would allow the recipient to change their legally assigned gender for all legal purposes.

The Group, however, recommended that applicants should not, at the time of the application for a gender recognition certificate, be married or in a civil partnership. The Group’s stated concern was that a gender recognition certificate would convert an existing opposite-sex marriage into a same-sex marriage and a same-sex civil partnership into an opposite-sex one, neither of which is legally permitted.  As the law currently stands, marriage is confined to opposite-sex couples, and civil partnership to same-sex couples.

The implication is that trans people who are currently married or in a civil partnership will need to obtain a divorce, civil partnership dissolution or annulment as a precondition to legal gender recognition.  Admittedly, many marriages do not survive a gender transition, but some do.  This places such intact couples Continue reading “Ryan on Gender Recognition and Marriage”

Ryan on Gender Recognition and Marriage

Guest Post: Barker on Raining on the Civil Partnership Parade

We are delighted to welcome this guest post from Dr. Nicola Barker; a lecturer in law and director of the LLM programme in Gender, Sexuality and Human Rights at Keele University, UK.  She is author of Not the Marrying Kind: Feminist Critiques of Marriage and the Legal Recognition of Same-Sex Relationships (forthcoming, 2011).

I was recently at an academic conference in Vermont, which was a celebration of the 10th anniversary of the Vermont Civil Union and 1st anniversary of same-sex marriage in the state.  Most of the conference participants were happy to celebrate marriage as an achievement of equality and access to numerous important legal rights (and responsibilities) of marriage.  I can understand those sentiments, particularly in a country where access to health care may be dependent on the person one chooses as a spouse having employment benefits and spousal coverage, but I cannot join in the celebration.  Likewise, I can understand the celebrations in Ireland following the introduction of civil partnerships but I do not share the jubilation.

Continue reading “Guest Post: Barker on Raining on the Civil Partnership Parade”

Guest Post: Barker on Raining on the Civil Partnership Parade