We are delighted to confirm that we have won a battle with the Department of Justice to fully recognize our client’s change of gender. We had requested that the Minister for Justice and the Garda National Immigration Bureau to amend the Register of Non Nationals to reflect her gender change from male to female. The amendment of identity documents to reflect change of gender was highlighted by our client’s medical team as being a significant part of her change of gender process. However, both the Garda National Immigration Bureau and the Department of Justice initially refused to do so, each indicating that it was not within their remit.
The Register of Non-Nationals is under the direction of the Minister for Justice and Equality (section 9(1) of the Immigration Act 2004), and it was the Garda National Immigration Bureau’s position that it required written authorization from the Minister in order to register Ms. Loh as female. We submitted to the Department that there is nothing in the section which prohibits the amendment of register to reflect her change of gender. We submitted that the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service, and the Garda National Immigration Bureau, were in fact obliged by section 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights Act 2003 to carry out their functions in a manner that is compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights, which necessitated the amendment.
Ultimately, High Court proceedings were avoided, when advices from the Attorney General resulted in the Department granting our client the permission she required to re register as a female. She was subsequently provided with a GNIB registration certificate and subsequently a travel document reflecting female gender.
The acceptance and recognition of one’s gender is a fundamental right, and we were very proud to have helped our client to achieve her personal goal, while also making a significant step forward for the rights of transgender persons in Ireland. We wish to congratulate her on having the courage to fight this point of public importance to success.
However, the rights of transgender persons in Ireland remain below accepted international standards. In October 2007, Lydia Foy’s ten year legal battle for a birth certificate recognizing her true gender ended with a favourable High Court decision. The High Court ruled the State in violation of the European Convention on Human Rights Act 2003 and required that it recognize transgender persons in their acquired and true gender. However, despite this progressive victory for the transgender community, today, Ireland is the only EU state without a legal mechanism for recognition of transgender persons. While discussions for a Gender Recognition Bill have begun, several of its proposals have already been deemed unlawful in countries such as Germany and Austria, most notably the requirement of married transgender people to divorce their partners before applying for gender recognition. Thus, while the Gender Recognition Bill may perhaps a step in the right direction, Ireland still appears to be well behind its EU counterparts with respect to recognition of transgender persons. Nearly seven years past the High Court ruling on the issue, the State has failed to respond, leaving its transgender citizens on the fringe, and opening itself to heavy criticism from the international human rights community.