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Last Updated:  Thursday, 10 April, 2003, 16:37 GMT 17:37 UK
Transsexual marriage not legal
Elizabeth Bellinger and her husband Michael
Elizabeth Bellinger has vowed to continue her fight
A transsexual has lost her battle to have her 22-year marriage declared legal.

Elizabeth Bellinger, 56, underwent a male-to-female sex change operation in 1981 and married Michael Bellinger the same year.

The registrar who married the couple did not ask for any evidence of Mrs Bellinger's gender and the couple have lived since then as husband and wife.

But the British legal system does not accept the validity of the marriage and last year Mrs Bellinger's case was heard by the House of Lords, the highest court in the UK.

On Thursday, five Law Lords rejected the Lincolnshire couple's marriage, saying Parliament regards gender at birth as fixed for life.

In a statement after the ruling Mrs Bellinger said the Law Lords were remote from the real world.

"I am extremely saddened today knowing that I have gone all the way through the British legal system and it has failed me.

"Now I fear I am left with no choice other than to seek redress in the European courts, a possibility my legal team will now look into."

The Lords said legislation which prevents the Bellingers calling themselves man and wife is incompatible with their rights to a private life and marriage under the Human Rights Act.

Political matter

The European Court of Human Rights has said earlier that the UK was in breach of human rights conventions over transsexuals.

Lord Nicholls said the Lords had been asked to decide whether a person can change the sex with which they were born - allowing Mrs Bellinger to be validly married to Mr Bellinger.
Elizabeth and Michael Bellinger
If there was a legitimate way of solving their problem... I would of course wish to take it
Lord Hope of Craighead

He said the question of where a transsexual should be treated for all purposes as a member of their chosen sex, including marriage, was a matter for Parliament and not the courts.

The government announced in December plans to bring forward legislation to allow transsexuals to marry as their chosen sex.

Lord Hope of Craighead said the courage of Mrs Bellinger and her partner "deserve our respect and admiration".

"If there was a legitimate way of solving their problem and making the declaration which Mrs Bellinger seeks, I would of course wish to take it."

Earlier petitions by Mrs Bellinger to both the High Court and the Court of Appeal for legal recognition of the marriage had been unsuccessful.

Transsexual wins right to appeal
21 Jan 02  |  UK News
Transsexual loses marriage case
17 Jul 01  |  UK News
Transexual demands 'respect'
21 Oct 98  |  Politics

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