For the first time, the UK has announced that it will use a constitutional mechanism to block controversial gender reform legislation that was passed by the Scottish government. The measure would make it easier for people to change their gender.
The legislation known as the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland ) Bill was approved in Holyrood with 86 votes to 39 in the days leading up to Christmas.
The bill would have removed the necessity for a diagnosis of gender dysphoria from a doctor before a person could apply for a gender recognition certificate (GRC).
It would have also lowered the amount of time that an applicant must live in their preferred gender from 2 years to 3 months. Most controversially, however, the bill would have lowered the minimum age of a person applying for a GRC from 18 to merely 16.
Scottish Secretary Alister Jack announced on Monday that he would invoke a clause in the legislation that gave the Scottish government devolved powers from Westminster to block the controversial bill from becoming law.
Jack wrote in a statement, "I have decided to make an order under section 35 of the Scotland Act 1998, preventing the Scottish Parliament's Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill from proceeding to Royal Assent."
Jack continued, "After thorough and careful consideration of all the relevant advice and the policy implications, I am concerned that this legislation would have an adverse impact on the operation of Great Britain-wide equalities legislation."
"Transgender people who are going through the process to change their legal sex deserve our respect, support, and understanding. My decision today si about the legislation's consequences for the operation of GB-wide equalities protections and other reserved matters," Jack added.
Jack concluded his statement, saying, "I have not taken this decision lightly. If the Scottish Government chooses to bring an amended bill back for reconsideration in the Scottish Parliament, I hope we can work together to find a constructive way forward that both respects devolution and the operation of UK Parliament legislation."
Jack's decision has incited outrage among the Scottish government, led by Nicola Sturgeon's Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP), which has long pushed for Scottish independence from Westminster.
Sturgeon responded to the decision calling it a "full-frontal attack on our democratically elected Scottish Parliament and its ability to make its own decisions on devolved matters."
She vowed to "defend the legislation and stand up for Scotland's parliament" and warned that if the UK government successfully vetoed the bill, "it will be the first of many."
Despite a poll published last month that showed that as many as two-thirds of Scots aged 16 and over opposed the bill, progressives in Hollyrood passed it anyway. Specifically, 66 percent were against lowering the minium age required to apply for a GRC from 18 to 16. It is uncertain whether or not an amended bill will be brought forward for reconsideration.
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