Leaders from UK LGBTQ+ groups challenge Rishi Sunak over ‘damaging’ response to Scotland gender bill

Jan 12, 23
Leaders from UK LGBTQ+ groups challenge Rishi Sunak over ‘damaging’ response to Scotland gender bill

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More than 145 LGBTQ+ leaders have signed an open letter to the prime minister calling on him to halt the government’s ‘unnecessary and damaging’ response to gender law reforms in Scotland. 

The letter, which includes signatories from Pride in London, Stonewall and Mermaids, has been submitted to prime minister Rishi Sunak by the LGBT Consortium – the umbrella organisation for LGBTQ+ groups in the UK.

In the letter, the LGBTQ+ leaders present a united front for trans rights and describe the Tories’ response as in opposition to the “the inclusive values that characterise modern Britain”.

They add the government’s actions send a “clear message” that it does not “feel trans people are worthy of respect in our society” and are instead a “threat to contain”. 

The various groups have come together following the Conservative government’s response to gender law reforms being passed in Scotland, which could see the Tories attempt to block the mandate entirely. 

In December 2022, the Scottish parliament passed reforms to the 2004 Gender Recognition Act (GRA) to make obtaining Gender Recognition Certificates (GRCs) – which are used to update gender markers on legal documents – easier.

The Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) bill, as it is formally known, removes the required gender dysphoria diagnosis or medical reports. The legislation lowers the minimum age that someone can apply from 18 to 16. 

Protesters calling for GRA (gender recognition act) reform, holding signs reading "reform the GRA" outside Scottish parliament
The GRA reform bill was passed in Scotland on December 22. (Getty Images/Ken Jack)

In response to these changes, the UK government has announced a review of approved GRCs from as many as 14 territories outside of England and Wales, including Canada, New Zealand and Australia.  

Women and equalities minister Kemi Badenoch said on Monday (January 9) that changes to GRA systems in other countries and territories “would not now be considered to have equivalently rigorous systems” to England and Wales. 

The government will, therefore, conduct a review and update of approved countries and territories so as not to “compromise the integrity of the Gender Recognition Act”. 

She added: “It should not be possible for a person who would not satisfy the criteria to obtain UK legal gender recognition to use the overseas recognition route to obtain a UK Gender Recognition Certificate. 

“This would damage the integrity and credibility of the process of the Gender Recognition Act.”

LGBTQ+ groups across the country have slammed the government’s reaction to the Scottish reforms while more than 8,000 members of the public have written to their local MPs calling for the plans be dropped. 

Leading LGBTQ+ charity Stonewall called the government challenge to the reforms a “disgraceful low” for the Tories’ approach to LGBTQ+ rights. 

“Trans people from countries like Canada, Australia and New Zealand have had their gender recognition certificates respected by the UK for years. Seeking to end this system is an extraordinary move, not based on evidence or experience, that will effectively serve as a ‘trans travel ban’.

“Ending recognition of GRCs from as many as fourteen countries who are our close allies and seeking to block implementation of the Scottish GRR Bill have significant consequences for trans people who are directly affected. But this also sends a message that the UK government sees trans people as a threat to be contained, not citizens to be respected.

“These moves cut against the inclusive values that characterise modern Britain and will actively harm the UK’s international reputation as an open, diverse and dynamic society – one of the reasons why global corporations that proudly support LGBTQ+ rights are attracted to doing business in the UK.  They will have significant political consequences in the UK and internationally,” a spokesperson for Stonewall said.

LGBTQ+ leaders from across the country come together for Scotland’s gender bill

Read the full letter below:

Dear Prime Minister

LGBT+ Leaders from across the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Voluntary and Community sectors are all in support of the following statement, which we submit to you collectively:

In December 2022, the Scottish Government passed its Gender Recognition Reform (GRR) with overwhelming cross-party support from Members of the Scottish Parliament after many years of consultation, review and discussion.

The UK Government is now considering challenging the Scottish Government’s mandate to implement this bill. It’s first step is to end reciprocal recognition of Gender Recognition Certificates (GRCs) from all countries that support trans people changing their legal gender using a self-determination mode – including Canada, Australia and New Zealand – after the UK has accepted them for years.

Seeking to end this system is an extraordinary move that is not based on any evidence or experience.

It sends a clear message that the UK Government does not feel trans people are worthy of respect in our society; instead, they are a threat to contain.

These moves also directly oppose the inclusive values that characterise modern Britain and will actively harm the UK’s international reputation as an open, diverse and dynamic society – an important reason why global corporations who proudly support LGBTQ+ rights are attracted to doing business in the UK.

We implore the Prime Minister to stop this unnecessary and damaging action immediately and instead recognise the significant positive contribution of trans people across the UK.

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