Home > Our Work > Gender Recognition Act Reform 2022

Reforming the Gender Recognition Act

Since 2004 the Gender Recognition Act (GRA) has allowed trans men and trans women in the UK to change the sex listed on their birth certificates to reflect their lived identity.

While it was a very important piece of legislation at the time, trans people, along with many human rights and equality organisations, have criticised the law as being too difficult to access, and placing too much emphasis on psychiatric diagnosis and medical transition. Many other countries and states around the world have already made changes to their own laws to reflect these criticisms.

For the past 5 years, the Scottish Government has been carrying out consultations on reforming the GRA to bring it closer in-line with international standards and make it easier for trans people to change the “legal sex” on their birth certificate.

On 3 March 2022, they introduced a Bill in the Scottish Parliament which would reform the law.

These proposed changes would significantly improve the current process, and bring Scotland’s gender recognition law more in-line with the approach of many other countries in Europe like the Republic of Ireland, Malta, and Iceland.

Scottish Trans supports these reforms, and believes they will have a marked impact on the lives of trans men and women in Scotland, who currently have to spend large amounts of time and money on a difficult, bureaucratic, and unfair process just to have the way they live recognised on some of their records.

Whilst an important step forward, the reforms proposed would still see Scotland with a gender recognition law that is far from world-leading. Other countries have been significantly more ambitious in changing their laws to ensure that all trans people can be respected and recognised as who they are.

You can find the bill itself here: https://www.parliament.scot/bills-and-laws/bills/gender-recognition-reform-scotland-bill 

Section 35 and the future of the Gender Recognition Reform Bill

While the Bill passed the Scottish Parliament in December 2022, it was blocked by the UK Government in January 2023 using a Section 35 order under the Scotland Act, which prevents the Bill from gaining royal assent and becoming law.

The Scottish Government challenged this decision in the Outer House of Court of Session, but in December 2023 the Court ruled in favour of the UK Government, finding that it did act lawfully, and the Scottish Government decided not appeal the Court’s decision.

We, and many across Scotland, were very disappointed by this, and you can read our thoughts about it here.

This, however, may not be the end for the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill, as while it has not yet become law, it could do in future if the Section 35 order is removed, as it will remain on the Scottish Parliament’s “books”.

We are hopeful that future UK Governments may be receptive to discussions around this, and will continue to work on ensuring better access to legal gender recognition for trans people in Scotland.



3rd March: Gender Recognition Reform Bill published

21st March: Stage One (written evidence) begins with call for views on the Bill

16th May: Call for views closes after four weeks

17th May: Stage One (oral evidence) begins with the Scottish Parliament’s Equalities, Human Rights and Civil Justice Committee taking evidence from a range of stakeholders

28th June: Oral evidence finishes after the committee hears from 39 witnesses with a range of perspectives and areas of expertise across 8 public sessions

2nd July: Scottish Parliament enters summer recess until 4th September, meaning no Committee or Chamber sessions

6th October: The Equalities, Human Rights and Civil Justice Committee releases its report, summarising evidence collecting and recommending by a majority that MSPs support the bill

27th October: MSPs debate the principle of the Bill in Scottish Parliament, and a vote on the Bill passes with 88 for, 33 against, and 4 abstains

28th October: Stage Two of the bill begins, meanings MSPs can submit amendments to the Bill to the Equalities, Human Rights and Civil Justice committee for them to approve or deny

22nd November: Final vote is held by the EHRCJ committee on Stage Two amendments, with only minor changes made to the Bill after over 150 amendments are considered

23rd November: Stage Three of the bill begins, the final section of the Bill’s progress where all MSPs can suggest and vote on amendments, followed by a final vote on whether the Bill will pass or fail

20th December: After over 140 amendments were submitted, the first debates and votes of Stage Three Amendments begin. Debating and voting over amendments stretches on for three days, with Scottish Parliament meeting well into the early hours of the morning. Few amendments pass, making minor changes to the Bill, but nothing which alters its core function.

23rd December: After closing remarks, a final vote is held on the Bill, which passes with an overwhelming majority of 86 votes for to 39 against, with supportive votes from members of all five parties.



16th January: Secretary of State for Scotland announces that the UK Government will use a Section 35 order under the Scotland Act to block the Bill from gaining royal assent, as they believe it will negatively impact their ability to carry out reserved equalities duties.

12th April: The Scottish Government announces that they will lodge a petition for legislative review of the Section 35 order, meaning they will take the UK Government to court over the legality of the order’s use.

30th June: The Scottish Government is granted permission to challenge the UK Government’s decision to block the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill.

19th – 20th September: The Scottish Government’s case and the UK Government’s response are heard in the Outer Court of Session. The hearing focused on the legality of the use of the Section 35 order, and not whether passing the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill was the “right” thing to do.

8th December: The Outer House ruled in favour of the UK Government, meaning that the Scottish Government’s appeal of the use of a Section 35 order failed.

20th December: The Scottish Government formally announced that they will not be appealing the court decision that the UK Government acted lawfully when they blocked the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill from becoming law. The law will not gain royal assent, but will remain on the Scottish Parliament’s “books”. You can read more here.




Email your MSPs

Find your MSPs and tell them why you think they should vote to reform the Gender Recognition Act.

Read more


Your frequently asked questions on the Gender Recognition Act answered.

Read more

Join our eNewsletter

30 Bernard Street
Edinburgh EH6 6PR

Scottish Trans is part of the Equality Network