Wedding bells ring for transgender people

Those who have had sex-change surgery can marry in their chosen sex from today

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 17 July, 2014, 4:23am
UPDATED : Thursday, 17 July, 2014, 8:10am

Transsexual people who have undergone a full sex-change operation can marry in their chosen sex from today, despite a delay to a bill giving legal effect to the policy change.

"Persons who have received full sex reassignment surgery will be treated by the Registrar of Marriages as being of the sex to which they are reassigned after surgery for the purpose of marriage registration," a government spokesman said yesterday.

The change comes after a Court of Final Appeal judgment last year allowing "W" - who has undergone surgery to become a woman - to marry her boyfriend. The court ruled she should be treated as a person of her chosen sex. The court said that the meaning of "woman" and "female" included "post-operative male-to-female transsexual persons whose gender has been … changed as a result of sex-reassignment surgery".

But controversy remains over the legislation. Rights activists say it is inhumane to insist that a person undergo dangerous surgery before marrying in their chosen gender.

The Marriage (Amendment) Bill submitted to the Legislative Council in March this year was not dealt with before the session ended on Tuesday and will have to wait until after the summer recess.

One transgender rights advocate said yesterday that the delay might be positive as the bill had "lots of holes and ambiguity".

"Passing a problematic bill would mean more trouble later," chairwoman of the Transgender Resource Centre, Joanne Leung Wing-yan, said.

The court order, issued in May, gave the government one year to change the law.

"The bill is still pending resumption of the second reading debate and third reading by Legco after the summer recess," a government spokesman said.

He said an interdepartmental group had been set up to examine problems facing transsexuals who had not undergone full sex-change surgery

The Security Bureau said last week that the question of transgender people who had not undergone surgery did not fall under the scope of the bill.

It said the working group would "follow up on various issues left open ... in the judgment on the 'W' case".

Leung said more than 100 transsexual people had completed full sex-change surgery at public hospitals, while about the same number had undergone the procedure overseas.

This brought the total number of transsexual people who are now eligible to marry in their chosen sex to between 200 to 300.