Transgender bill passes first Holyrood hurdle despite SNP backbench revolt

Beyond England Policy & Politics

The Scottish parliament has overwhelmingly voted through the first stage of a transgender recognition bill despite a revolt by Scottish National party (SNP) backbenchers and the resignation of a minister.

Members of the Scottish parliament voted 88 to 33 in favour of reforms to give transpeople more “dignified” recognition and to make it easier for them to change their legal sex.

Seven SNP MSPs voted against their party and two abstained, marking the “largest backbench revolt in its 15 years in power” according to the Guardian.

“Rebellions among SNP ministers are exceedingly rare,” reported the Telegraph after community safety minister Ash Regan quit the government before the vote.

Regan stated that after careful consideration she had “concluded that my conscience will not allow me to vote with the government as the stage one of this bill this afternoon.”

Scotland’s Herald newspaper reports that Regan later tweeted that she believed passing the bill into law “may have negative implications for the safety and dignity of women and girls”.

The reforms will end the need for a psychiatric diagnosis of gender dysphoria in order to obtain a gender recognition certificate (GRC). The new system will allow self-declaration and make it far faster for transgender people to apply for a GRC. Current law requires a person to live for two years in their gender. The reform will cut that to three months with a further three-month “confirmatory period”.

The age for obtaining a GRC will be lowered from 18 to 16, bringing it in line with wider Scots law on adult capacity.

‘Predatory men are the problem, not transgender people’

Labour MSPs voiced their support for the general principles of the transgender bill but will be seeking amendments as it progresses through Holyrood.

All but four of the 31 Scottish Conservatives MSPs voted against the reforms, which the Guardian says were “a red line for the Scottish Greens in their cooperation agreement with the SNP” after May’s elections.

The Herald reports that Scottish Conservatives backed plans for gender reform in 2016

Two Tories abstained while two backed the bill with Conservative MSP Jamie Greene telling Holyrood: “I know how it feels to be told how you feel is just a phase, or to be suppressed … or is a mental illness.”

Greene, who is a gay man, said he was saddened to hear the same bad-faith arguments against transgender reform that were used against gay rights. He challenged Nicola Sturgeon’s government to be “more honest” about how the bill will impact women’s rights.

Critics of the bill claim the reforms will put women at risk by making it easier for male-bodied people to access women only spaces such as bathrooms, prisons, changing rooms, hospital wards and changing rooms.

Scotland’s social justice secretary Shona Robison told MSPs at Holyrood that “the threat to women comes from predatory and abusive men, not trans women and trans men”.

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