The climbdown ends an epic legal battle by Co Kildare-based former dentist Dr Lydia Foy who was registered male at birth but had gender reassignment surgery and has been seeking to be officially recognised as a woman for 17 years.
New laws will now have to be introduced to guarantee the entitlement of any citizen who changes gender to have a new birth cert.
Dr Foy said she was delighted with the Government’s decision to withdraw a pending Supreme Court appeal on the issue. “I hope this achievement will help others who have endured the pain, abuse, isolation, humiliation and fear that have been the lot of those who are transgendered.”
She regretted it had taken so long, given the European Court of Human Rights, which is binding on all EU countries, gave a landmark ruling on this in 2002.
“I call on the Government to now treat this as a matter of urgency, as I and other transgender people cannot get our new birth certificates and will not be legally recognised in our true gender until the law is changed.”
That call was backed by the Free Legal Advice Centre, which represented Dr Foy throughout her court battles, by the Irish Human Rights Commission and the Irish Council for Civil Liberties.
While Dr Foy got a passport and driver’s licence issued in her new name after changing it by deed poll, the process was fraught with difficulties, and birth certificates are still the only form of identity accepted for many official transactions.
The Government has set up a Gender Recognition Advisory Group to study the legislation required, the impact on inheritance rights and other implications. It met for the first time last month and is to make recommendations within six months. The Department of Social Protection said, however, there was no deadline or time scale for the drawing up of the new legislation.