U.K. campaigner loses legal battle for "genderless" passports

by Umberto Bacchi | @UmbertoBacchi | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Friday, 22 June 2018 14:23 GMT

Christie Elan-Cane poses for a photo in Cheltenham, Britain, April 12, 2018. Thomson Reuters Foundation/Serena Chaudhry

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Britain's Home Office had asked that the case be dismissed, arguing policy change would carry significant costs and administrative difficulties

By Umberto Bacchi

LONDON, June 22 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - A campaigner lost a legal battle to have British passports recognise people who identify as neither male nor female when a court ruled on Friday that existing policy was lawful.

Christie Elan-Cane, who was born female but identifies as genderless, wants the government to introduce a third category of passports for such people.

"I'm extremely sorry to say that today's judgment ruled HM Government's refusal to issue 'X' PASSPORTS was not unlawful", the campaigner tweeted after the High Court dismissed the challenge to government passport policy.

Elan-Cane argues the current system, which allows applicants to tick only a male or female option, is discriminatory.

Lawyers for the campaigner had argued that the lack of a passport alternative for genderless people, usually symbolised with an 'X', breached the right to respect for private life and the right not to be discriminated against.

Both rights are upheld by the European Convention on Human Rights.

In his ruling, High Court judge Jeremy Baker said the British government would need to consider to what extent the "recording of an individual's sex and/or gender in official and other documentation is justified".

Britain's Home Office had asked that the case be dismissed, arguing policy change would carry significant costs and administrative difficulties.

Globally, 10 countries - Australia, New Zealand, Denmark, Germany, Malta, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Ireland and Canada - allow genderless passports.

Elan-Cane, 60, first started campaigning for genderless people in 1992 after shedding a female identity and taking on a gender-neutral one.

Although Britain recognised the gender identity of transgender people in the 2004 Gender Recognition Act, Elan-Cane said the decision to identify as non-gendered had consequences, including discrimination and being forced out of work.

"I find it very degrading that I have to fight to achieve (a) legitimate identity that most people can take for granted within gendered society," the campaigner told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in April.

In 2013, London-based law firm Clifford Chance took on the case pro bono.

"We are disappointed with the outcome in today's judgment which leaves the U.K., unlike many other countries, denying non-gendered citizens a passport that reflects their true identity," said Narind Singh, a partner at Clifford Chance.

Elan-Cane was considering whether to appeal the judgment, Singh said.

(Reporting by Umberto Bacchi @UmbertoBacchi, Editing by Claire Cozens. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit http://news.trust.org)

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