Hackney leaders call for reform of 'outdated' gender laws

Hackney leaders raise inclusive flag at Hackney Town Hall

The mayor of Hackney, Philip Glanville; the speaker of Hackney, Cllr Kam Adams; and cabinet member for employment, skills and human resources, Cllr Carole Williams raised the inclusive rainbow flag over Hackney Town Hall in 2020 - Credit: Sean Pollock/Hackney council

Hackney leaders are calling for urgent reform of the Gender Recognition Act (GRA) to make it easier for transgender people to legally change gender.

Hackney's mayor, Philip Glanville, called the act "outdated" and urged ministers to mark LGBT+ history month by reforming the process, as countries like Ireland and Argentina have done, to allow people to amend their birth certificate through self-declaration, without the need for diagnosis or assessment.

In a letter to the government, Mayor Glanville and Hackney's equality chief Cllr Carole Williams wrote: “While the GRA (2004) was considered ground-breaking back in 2004, it is very clear that it has now become outdated and is in urgent need of reform."

Currently, transgender people must apply for a Gender Recognition Certificate, a process which respondents called "unnecessarily bureaucratic, stress and dehumanising" in a government consultation published in 2018.

To change gender under the current legislation, a person must provide a panel of experts with evidence that they have lived in their "acquired gender" for two years and make a statutory declaration that they intend to do so until death.

They must be at least 18 years old and diagnosed with gender dysphoria. The process costs £140 but is free if someone is on a low income. 

Meanwhile, the government stands by statements made last year that requirements necessary to legally change gender will remain, but the process will be digitalised and the cost significantly reduced. 

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Minister for women and equalities, Liz Truss, said: "We believe in individual liberty and in the humanity and dignity of every person.

“It is my view that the balance struck in the existing legislation is correct. There are proportionate checks and balances in the system, alongside support for people that want to change their legal sex." 

However, the council says the government's proposals fail to "meaningfully" reform the act. 

Hackney leaders added: "We recognise that we can never afford to be complacent, especially with the national rise in transphobic and other hate crimes, if we are to maintain a reputation for an open, inclusive and tolerant borough.”

In addition to the calls for GRA reform, the council is celebrating LGBT+ History Month by raising an inclusive flag at the Town Hall and promoting the work of Hackney LGBTQI+ organisations, authors, artists and creatives.

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