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Thursday, 11 July, 2002, 13:31 GMT 14:31 UK
Transsexual wins right to marry
European Court of Human Rights
The case was at the European Court of Human Rights
A British transsexual has won her battle in the European Court of Human Rights to be recognised as a woman and be allowed to marry.

Christine Goodwin's solicitor called it a "milestone" in her campaign to be treated equally with other women.

The 65-year-old told the court that English law had denied her the right to a new sexual identity.

However, the ruling does not immediately override UK law - it simply means it will have to be taken into account by judges in future.

Ms Goodwin can now apply again to the British courts in the hope they will do so.


The court found no justification for barring the transsexual from enjoying the right to marry under any circumstances

Judges' ruling

The judgment delivered in the Strasbourg court unanimously held that the UK's failure to recognise her new identity in law breached her rights to respect for privacy and her right to marry under the European Convention on Human Rights.

The UK is one of four countries in the Council of Europe which does not recognise a sex change as legally valid. The others are Ireland, Andorra and Albania.

But Ms Goodwin's solicitor Robin Lewis said the decision would mean the British Government would eventually be forced to change its laws.

The judges said the ruling was based on a continuing international trend in favour of the social and legal acceptance of transsexuals.

"There had been major social changes in the institution of marriage since the adoption of the convention as well as dramatic changes brought about by developments in medicine and science in the field of transsexuality," they said.

Legal constraints

They said the fact that she was still considered male by the authorities affected her life where sex was of legal relevance, such as in the area of pensions and retirement age.

Ms Goodwin had argued that her human rights had been denied because, unlike other women, she was unable to draw a pension until she was 65.


The court has said that the government's stance falls far short of the standards for human dignity in the 21st century

Robin Lewis
Ms Goodwin's solicitor
English law allows women to qualify for a pension when they turn 60 and men at 65.

But the judges said the court "was not convinced that the inability of the transsexual to acquire all the biological characteristics took on decisive importance".

The former bus driver, who had a full sex change operation in 1990, told the court she was not given a new National Insurance number after the operation.

She says she suffered sexual harassment and embarrassment at work after her employers discovered she had formerly been a man.

Mr Lewis said: "The court has said that the government's stance falls far short of the standards for human dignity and human freedom in the 21st century.

"Christine Goodwin's victory will be seen as a milestone on the road to change.

"This judgment will require the government to change the law... and any government practice which could lead to the history of a transsexual being identified will also have to be changed so as to respect the individual's right to privacy."

A spokeswoman for the Lord Chancellor's Department said the judgment would be taken seriously.

She added that it did not override UK law, but meant it would have to be taken into account by judges in the future.

Ms Goodwin was awarded 14,685 for costs and expenses.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Andy Tighe
"It's a major breakthrough for transsexual pressure groups"
Ms Goodwin's solicitor Robin Lewis
"The court has found that there was an interference with her right to privacy"
Press For Change vice-president Dr Stephen Whittle
"It's going to make a magnificent difference to the quality of life for transsexuals in this country"
See also:

09 Jan 01 | UK Education
14 Aug 00 | Europe
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