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Last Updated: Friday, 28 November, 2003, 12:37 GMT
Transsexuals set for new rights
Transsexual Elizabeth Bellinger and her husband Michael
Marriages involving transsexuals are not legal in the UK
Plans to allow transsexuals to marry in their adopted sex have moved a step closer after a bill aimed at making the change was published by ministers.

The proposals, trailed earlier this year, would also allow transsexuals to apply for substitute birth certificates showing their new genders.

A new authorising body would be set up to deal with applications.

The proposals were part of the government's plans for the new session of Parliament.

The Gender Recognition Bill was first trailed earlier this year in draft form,

Transsexuals, of whom there are around 5,000 in the UK, applying to the new body will have to meet medical criteria and live successfully in their new gender for at least two years in order to receive a new document to replace their original birth certificate.

They are not expected to have actually undergone surgery in order to change their sex in cases of gender dysphoria.

The plans were announced in draft form in July following a landmark ruling by the European Court of Human Rights in 2002 which said current UK law breached transsexuals' human rights.

Department for Constitutional Affairs minister Lord Filkin said: "In a civilised society individuals and groups must be able to exercise the rights they are legitimately entitled to and be allowed to live their lives free from discrimination.

"The Gender Recognition Bill will ensure that transsexual people can now take up all their fundamental rights including the right to respect for private and family life and the right to marry."

The Bill applies to England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and the Scottish Parliament has said it will adopt devolved aspects of the legislation.

It would end the UK's status - alongside Albania, Andorra and the Irish Republic - as one of only four European countries to refuse transsexuals permission to alter their sex on birth certificates.

It has prevented them marrying in their adopted sex and affected the age at which they qualify for the state pension.

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