Trans woman wins right to be recognised as child’s mother in landmark French court ruling

Trans parents: Mum finally listed on child's birth certificate after arduous court fight

In a case that could bring hope to thousands of trans parents, a French court has recognised the right of a trans woman to be registered as her child’s mother.

In what is believed to be a first for the French judiciary, a court of appeal in Toulouse, southern France, ruled that the woman could be listed on the baby’s birth certificate as their mother after a civil registrar refused to list her as such.

The case was brought by an unnamed couple, from the Hérault department, who have three children together. They married in 1999 and in 2011 an administrative court officially recognised the transition of one of the partners, including updating the couple’s marriage certificate.

But when the couple’s third child was born in 2014, the civil registrar refused to list two mothers on its birth certificate – because under French law it’s only possible to register a child with two mothers in adoption cases.

The couple took legal action, which was initially unsuccessful with a judge saying it’s “impossible for two people of the same sex to be the biological parents of a child” in 2016.

They appealed and, in 2018, a court ruled that the couple’s child’s birth certificate could list a mother and a “biological parent”. It was the first time in France that the category of “biological parent” had been used.

In 2020, France’s court of cassation referred the case to the Toulouse court of appeal. Wednesday’s (9 February) outcome of that appeal means that both women can now be listed as their child’s mother on its birth certificate.

The court said that France’s 2016 gender recognition laws have left an “undeniable legal vacuum” due to their lack of provision for trans parents, and ruled that it’s in the best interests of the child with a trans parent, or parents, to have a birth certificate that maintains their privacy and so it will be possible to list two mothers or two fathers on the birth certificate.

This latest ruling means that the situation for trans parents in France is marginally better than in the UK, where children of trans parents do not have access to accurate birth certificates.

Trans parents not recognised by British state

In the UK, thousands of children are being disadvantaged because the British state does not legally recognise their trans parents.

This includes trans parents with and without legal recognition of their gender, because of outdated 1950s law that says whoever gives birth to a baby can only be recorded as its mother on the birth certificate.

Trans men and non-binary people who give birth are always listed as the “mother”, and trans mothers will be listed on birth certificates as “father”,  even when trans parents have their gender legally recognised – an arduous process that only around one per cent of trans people have accessed.

One person who tried to challenge this outdated and discriminatory law is Freddy McConnell, a trans dad who fought an ultimately unsuccessful four-year legal battle to be named his child’s “parent” or “father” on their birth certificate.

McConnell lost his case at the Court of Appeal in 2020, and the Supreme Court rejected his request to appeal that ruling – leaving him without further legal options in the UK.