Irish judge sets resolution deadline in landmark trans case

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The High Court in Dublin declared yesterday that birth registration laws in Ireland are in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Mr Justice Liam McKechnie has given the Irish government two months to decide how to resolve the issue.

His ruling follows the case of Dr Lydia Foy, a dentist who underwent gender reassignment surgery.

In October he ruled that the failure of the government to provide proper recognition of the female identity of Dr Foy is a violation of the European Convention.

He said that the system of birth registration in Ireland is incompatible with the convention as it prevents Dr Foy’s registration as female at birth.

The government will now have to outline how it intends to comply with Article 8 of the convention, respect for private life.

Dr Foy changed her name to Lydia in 1993 and has previously been issued with an Irish passport and driving licence in which she is identified as female.

She also obtained a Gender Recognition Certificate in the UK, but the High Court in Dublin questioned the relevance of the document in the Republic of Ireland.

When obtaining the certificate, Dr Foy stated that she was unmarried, despite the fact that she married in 1977 and fathered two daughters.

In 2002, Dr Foy was refused a direction by the courts to the Registrar of Births to describe her as female on her birth certificate.

Just days after that High Court decision the European Court of Human Rights ruled on a landmark case.

The UK’s refusal to give transgender people new birth certificates breached their rights to marry and to respect for privacy under the Convention, the European court ruled.

At that time the High Court in Dublin urged the Irish government to take action, but nothing has been done in the intervening five years, so Dr Foy has returned to court.

In his 70-page judgment, Mr Justice McKechnie criticised the government for not bring forward legislation when the case arose in 2002.

In April 2007 counsel for Mrs Foy argued that ruling in Dr Foy’s favour could “enormous uncertainty” and put in a unique position, as the Irish state only recognises a marriage between people of the opposite sex.

Dr Foy will now be able to claim compensation. She has been awarded costs.