Joint Committee On Human Rights Written Evidence

3. Submission from Christian Spirituality Group for the Transgendered (The SIBYLS)

  On behalf of this group I am writing to offer a warm welcome to and our support for this bill. We are grateful that the Government is bringing this bill forward and we would thank all those who worked on its production. Affirmation of their full legal status will make a huge difference for transsexual people and put an end to embarrassments and disabilities to which they have been subject.

  The Sibyls is a Christian spirituality group for people who are transgendered. It exists for the mutual support of its members. Over the years it has gained wide support from a considerable number of Christians from a wide variety of traditions, including Evangelicals, who recognise our sincerity and how difficult the lack of full legal status has been for us.

  It is important that you are aware that very many Christians are supportive. There are some who will oppose. The Evangelical Alliance, the Christian Institute, will be vociferous in their objections, and claim that they speak for Christians, but they speak only for those holding their particular views.

  An area of concern is that we have a few members who are married and who have no wish to disturb that relationship. Should they have to divorce to take advantage of the bill, there are huge implications for them in matters of property, pension rights, tax and inheritance tax, with potential hardship. We have for example a couple in their 70s owning everything in common to whom inheritance tax provisions are very important. We know of one who remains married because her wife depends on a portion of her pension which divorce would eliminate.

  We would ask that consideration be given to their predicament and that a way is found to give them full gender recognition without the need to disturb the marriage.

  One possible solution might lie in the Governments expressed intention to bring in legislation for same-sex civil partnerships. A clause could be inserted in that bill to allow married couples, where both consent and one holds an interim gender recognition certificate, to re-register their marriage as a same-sex partnership with existing rights and duties continuing as if there had been no change to the marriage.

  On a procedural point, it might be helpful to have a transsexual person on the Gender Recognition Panel, either as a full member or as an assessor.

  These issues apart, the bill is excellent, we welcome it and wish it to succeed. The requirements are reasonable and the process sensible. We give it our whole hearted support. May God bless your deliberations and may the bill proceed rapidly to the Royal Assent.

30 August 2003

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