BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific Arabic Spanish Russian Chinese Welsh

 You are in: UK
Front Page 
Northern Ireland 
UK Politics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

Commonwealth Games 2002

BBC Sport

BBC Weather

Tuesday, 17 July, 2001, 11:02 GMT 12:02 UK
Transsexual loses marriage case
Elizabeth Bellinger and Michael Bellinger
Elizabeth and Michael Bellinger "married" 20 years ago
A transsexual has failed to overturn a High Court ruling that declared her 20-year marriage invalid.

Three Court of Appeal judges upheld a ruling by a High Court judge in November last year that Elizabeth Bellinger's marriage was void.

Male-to-female transsexual Elizabeth Bellinger had petitioned the High Court for legal recognition of her marriage to husband Michael.

Elizabeth Bellinger, 54, from Lincoln, went through a sex change operation in 1981 and, as Elizabeth, married Michael Bellinger in the same year.

We are talking about a 20-year marriage that could be non-existent if we just leave this

Elizabeth Bellinger
Mrs Bellinger said after the ruling: "We are now going to consider an appeal to the House of Lords."

She said she was disappointed that an "opportunity to correct a great injustice for a lot of people" had not been taken.

"I feel very hurt but at the same time we are not stopping. This goes on.

"We are talking about a 20-year marriage that could be non-existent if we just leave this," she added,

Medical condition

Dame Elizabeth Butler-Sloss, president of the Family Division, said that the case highlighted a "human problem".

The court was "very much aware of the plight of those who, like the appellant, are locked into the medical condition of transsexualism".

Elizabeth Bellinger
Elizabeth Bellinger always considered herself female

But she said that as the law now stood, Mrs Bellinger could not be recognised as a female and therefore her marriage to her husband, Michael, was invalid.

The ruling was by a majority of two to one.

The dissenting judge, Lord Justice Thorpe, said the justice system should be flexible to accept social change.

"I am strongly of the opinion that there are not sufficiently compelling reasons, having regard to the interests of others affected or, more relevantly, the interests of society as a whole, to deny this appellant legal recognition of her marriage.

"I would have allowed this appeal."

'Loving relationship'

Laura Cox QC, representing Mrs Bellinger, had asked the appeal court to reinterpret the law so that people like her client were recognised as female.

"This is a loving husband and wife who have found happiness together in a loving, committed relationship.

"It could have continued in that way without anyone being any the wiser.

"But because she had a deeply-held wish to have the marriage recognised as a valid one, she brought this petition."

The European Court of Justice had ruled that there should be no discrimination against a person because they were transsexual and reprimanded the UK for not keeping under review the legal position of transsexuals in domestic law.

The registrar who married Elizabeth and Michael Bellinger in 1981 did not ask her to give any evidence of her sexuality.

They had lived together as man and wife for the last 20 years.

See also:

21 Oct 98 | UK Politics
Transexual demands 'respect'
20 Oct 98 | UK Politics
MP praises 'The Street'
24 Sep 98 | Lib Dem Conference
'Give transsexuals their rights'
Links to more UK stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more UK stories