ALISTER Jack has insisted that the UK Government is not “trampling over transgender rights” after facing a backlash over his decision to block the Scottish Parliament’s gender recognition reforms.
The Scottish Secretary hit back at claims his government has used a section 35 order to block the reforms from becoming law. in a move putting trans rights at risk.
Instead he claimed that “transgender people deserve our respect, our support and our understanding”, adding that “I have not taken this decision lightly”.
He added: “It is our assessment that the Bill would have a serious adverse impact, among other things, on the operation of the Equality Act 2010.”
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But Mr Jack w as accused of using transgender rights as a “political fodder”.
Th legislation, passed by a majority of MSPs, would remove the need for trans people to require a gender dysphoria diagnosis in order to obtain a gender recognition certificate.
LGBT groups had welcomed the legislation being passed and have criticised the UK Government decision to block the Bill.
Speaking in response to Mr Jack in the House of Commons, SNP MSP Hannah Bardell said the Tory government “make me sick to my stomach”.
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She said: “The Secretary of State is going to come to this house and trample all over trans rights, over Scottish democracy and over equality.
“He should at the very least do his homework because he clearly knows as little about this Bill as he does about devolution.
“Are he and his government so scared of democracy and equality that he really thinks it is justifiable to use one of the most marginalised groups in our society as political fodder for their anti-trans, anti-equality and anti-democratic endeavours?”
Ms Bardell later added:”When I came out I did not have to seek verification from anybody to be a lesbian.
“I do not understand why we are treating trans people as if they are applying for some kind of arbitrary, inanimate thing. This is about their identity.
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“It is about their lives and livelihoods, and we should treat them with the dignity and respect they deserve.”
In response, Mr Jack said that his decision was “nothing to do with trampling over transgender rights”.
He added that politicians “should not be bringing into it or politicising the transgender community”.
LibDems MP Christine Jardine told the Commons she has “looked at every clause and amendment of this Bill…searching for the place where it undermines the Equality Act”, adding: “I cannot find it.”
She said: “Some of the UK’s finest legal minds have pored over this hugely scrutinised Bill in great detail and found no conflict.
“What I can see is where the Bill guarantees that it will not challenge the primacy of the Equality Act.”
Mr Jardine also accused Mr Jack of “playing fast and loose with the Union and doing so much to hurt the most vulnerable people in our society”.
Labour’s shadow Scottish secretary Ian Murray, warned that the “constitutional bunfight” means that “trans people, who suffer intense discrimination, will now not see this legislation take effect any time soon—if at all”.
Labour MP Nadia Whittome claimed that the move by Mr Jack “is really about fanning the flames of a culture war that is harming trans people across the UK”.
In Holyrood, Tory MSP Rachael Hamilton told the parliament that Mr Jack was simply acting on legal advice taken on the cross-border implications of the law.
She said: ”Legal experts arrived at the conclusion that this Bill would have consequences for the operation of the UK-wide equalities protections. And that is a reserved matter that falls outside this Parliament’s devolved competence.”
Ms Hamilton said the Secretary of State had “recognised that the intention of this Bill is to respect, support and understand the needs of transgender people going through the process of changing their legal sex and has offered to work with the Scottish Government to create a Bill that is legally competent and falls within the devolved powers of this Scottish Parliament.”
Greens equalities spokesperson, Maggie Chapman said that the fact the UK Government “has chosen an equalities issue on which to use its section 35 powers for the first time speaks volumes”.
She added: “The Scottish Government has—rightly, in my view—said that no nuclear energy power will be developed here, and the UK Government has confirmed that it would not impose nuclear reactors on Scotland.
“Energy is a reserved matter. The Scottish decision on that issue has an impact on the energy market of the whole of the UK.
“It is interesting, therefore, that it is an equalities issue that the UK Government uses to attack the Scottish Parliament’s powers.”
Scotland Office minister John Lamont said: “I believe, and this Government believe, that transgender people deserve our respect, support and understanding.
“We have a long-established, world-leading equality framework that protects everyone, including transgender people, from discrimination, harassment and victimisation, and advances equality of opportunity for all.”
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