Home > News > Final amendments on Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill at Stage Two

23 November 2022   |    News

Final amendments on Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill at Stage Two

Following on from last week’s session (https://www.scottishtrans.org/first-amendments-passed-on-grr-at-stage-two/) the Scottish Parliament’s Equalities, Human Rights, and Civil Justice Committee met yesterday to debate and vote on the remaining proposed amendments to the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill.

As with last week, this very lengthy session allowed MSPs who proposed amendments (changes to how the Bill would work) to make their case, before members of the Committee voted on whether to include the amendments in the Bill or not.

Overall, the amendments that passed yesterday are fairly minor, and we think they will have little impact on the function of the Bill, which is to allow trans men and women in Scotland to more easily update the sex on their birth certificate.

Some of the amendments that passed yesterday (and many which were voted down) relate to the prospect of a review of the Bill’s impacts if it does become law. This would allow MSPs to assess whether the Bill is working as intended or could be improved, and if any of the concerns raised about unintended impacts have occurred.

The Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice, Housing, and Local Government (who has been present at both sessions and is responsible for the Bill) said she would use Amendment 145 as the base for a wider amendment at Stage Three that would create a general review of the Bill and its impacts, and include many of the areas for review proposed by MSPs at Stage Two. This would happen three years after the Bill comes into effect, if passed, which we think is a sensible amount of time to be able to properly evaluate its impacts (or indeed lack of impacts).

We are broadly supportive of such a review, especially as Amendment 145 states the Ministers must consider whether “any provision related to gender recognition for non-binary people” could be created, and Amendment 141 (which also passed) would include a review of whether the Bill’s two 3-month periods were necessary.

There are some proposed areas for review that we think are unnecessary, as we do not see how they will be impacted by the Bill—such as which estates trans people in custody are housed in—but these are less problematic if included in a general review, especially if they will provide reassurance to MSPs and the wider public that there have been no unexpected impacts.

Amendment 133 also passed, which would introduce an aggravator to existing criminal offences if the “circumstances of the offence are proven to be connected to the fact that the person has fraudulently obtained a gender recognition certificate.” This means that if a person was found guilty of a crime that they were enabled to carry out because they had obtained a GRC by fraud, then this can be taken into account when considering sentencing for that offence.

We are unsure why this amendment is necessary, as the bill already creates a new offence of fraudulently obtaining a GRC, which a person could be charged with. GRCs do not grant people access to specific services or spaces, including single-sex services. Trans people can already access these without a GRC, and indeed all trans people, both those who do and those who don’t have GRCs, can be excluded from them, if this is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim. Additionally, we will seek reassurance that this aggravator would not be used to pry into trans people’s identities if they are subject to a court case that has nothing to do with their trans status, or the fact that they have obtained a GRC (but that this was, of course, not done fraudulently).

The end of yesterday’s session marks the end of “Stage Two” of the Bill, and moves us onto “Stage Three”, where MSPs can once again suggest amendments to be debated and voted on – as long as these amendments do not mirror those voted down at Stage Two (although there can be some discretion on this).  At Stage Three, these amendments are voted on by every MSP across the chamber, and not just the members of the Equalities, Human Rights and Civil Justice Committee. This will be followed by a final vote to see whether the Bill becomes law (For more on the stages of a bill as it goes through Scottish Parliament, see: https://www.scottishtrans.org/our-work/legislation/)

We will continue to update you on the Bill’s next steps and Stage Three amendments, and you can see the full text of the Bill, which has now been changed to reflect the amendments passed at stage two, here: https://www.parliament.scot/-/media/files/legislation/bills/s6-bills/gender-recognition-reform-scotland-bill/stage-2/bill-as-amended-at-stage-2.pdf

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