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UK Government Makes Constitutional First To Appease TERFs

Nicola Sturgeon at Glasgow Pride, 2018

In an unprecedented move in the last 25 years since devolution (the transfer of power to individual nation governments in the UK), the British government has moved to block Scotland‘s gender reform bill. First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon has called the decision a “full-frontal attack” on the Scottish parliament that “uses trans people as a weapon”.

While the UK government in Downing Street has the power to stop legislation from Scotland’s Holyrood, this marks a first that it’s actually happened. Scotland Secretary Alister Jack justified the decision by saying the UK government believes the bill would have an adverse impact on UK-wide equality law.

The bill in question, the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill, was passed by a majority of MSPs last month and seeks to remove admin obstacles for people wanting to change their gender. The new legislation would lower the age people can apply to change their gender to 16, remove the need for a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria for a gender recognition certificate (GRC), and reduce the time an applicant needs to live in their acquired gender. The legislation is similar to that already in place in the Republic of Ireland, Norway, and Argentina.

While the reform bill would largely only remove administrative blocks and help to reduce wait times in However, some groups in the UK see the move as an attack on women-only spaces, with arguments raised that it would mean people only pretending to be women could access female bathrooms or other private spaces—despite not needing any sort of proof of gender to enter bathrooms currently.

“This is a full-frontal attack on our democratically-elected Scottish parliament and its ability to make its own decisions on devolved matters,” wrote Ms Sturgeon in a tweet in response to the news. “The Scottish government will defend the legislation and stand up for Scotland’s parliament. If this Westminster veto succeeds, it will be first of many.”

This comes just a few months after the UK government blocked Scotland’s attempt to have a second referendum on Scottish independence. As such, Ms Sturgeon has described the move as a way of “using trans people as a political weapon.”

“In my view there are no grounds to challenge this legislation,” the First Minister told reporters. “It is within the competence of the Scottish parliament, it doesn’t affect the operation of the Equality Act and it was passed by an overwhelming majority of the Scottish parliament after very lengthy and very intense scrutiny by MSPs of all parties represented in the parliament.

(featured image: Delphine Dallison, CC BY-SA 4.0)

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