By Democrat reporter
STV News is reporting from Edinburgh that the Scottish Parliament has passed legislation which aims to make it easier for transgender people to change their legally recognised gender.
It comes after three days of consideration of amendments to the Gender Recognition Reform Bill at Holyrood.
MSPs addressed 153 amendments that had been lodged at stage three of the Bill, having sat beyond midnight at the end of a marathon session on Tuesday.
Passing of the Bill draws to an end the parliamentary wrangling over the proposals, which have been contested fiercely by opponents of the legislation.
Campaign groups have warned that the reforms – which seek to make the process for people to obtain a gender recognition certificate easier – could risk the safety of women and girls.
However, supporters of the changes insist that it is about simplifying the process and removing hurdles within the current requirements.
A requirement for a medial report, including a diagnosis of gender diagnosis, will be dropped.
Applicants for a certificate will also now be required to live in their acquired gender for three months (six months for 16 and 17-year-olds) – down from the current requirement of two years.
An amendment submitted by SNP MSP Gillian Martin to ensure that anyone subject to a sexual harm prevention order, or a sexual offences prevention order, cannot seek a gender recognition certificate, is also being implemented having been accepted by MSPs.
Scottish Greens MSP Maggie Chapman hailed the result as a “historic day for equality”.
She added: “Trans rights are human rights and I am proud that our parliament has voted to bring Scotland closer in line with best international practice while improving the lives of our trans siblings.
“Self-identification, including for 16 and 17 year olds, is a crucial reform. And it is because it is a key part of the Bute House Agreement that the Scottish Greens negotiated with the Scottish Government, that it is now a reality. And I am very pleased that it is.
“The last three days of debate have shown the best and worst of our Parliament. But today isn’t about party politics. It is about the future and the progressive and inclusive society that we want to build.”
The new law has prompted rebellions across the chamber, with nine SNP MSPs voting against, including former minister Ash Regan.
Meanwhile, two Labour MSPs – Carol Mochan and Claire Baker – voted against the party whip, while it is understood some Labour opponents to the Bill were allowed to miss the vote. We have asked Jackie Baillie to comment on how she voted.
Mochan and Baker both hold frontbench positions within the Labour Party which they will now be expected to quit.
For the Tories, Jamie Greene and former leader Jackson Carlaw voted in favour of the reforms.
Tory Rachael Hamilton said the Bill “has shown this Parliament at its worst”.
She added: “In the rush to make the process a little easier for trans people, the Government is making it easier for criminal men to attack women. That’s the problem here.”
Hamilton said the Bill – which she claimed would be a “legacy issue for the First Minister” – would “let criminal men exploit the system” and put women at risk in single-sex spaces.
The Equality Act features exemptions for single-sex spaces where trans people can be excluded in certain circumstances – exemptions that will not change.
Hamilton went on to claim that “society as a whole” is at risk from the Bill, adding: “While most of us across Scotland are good, decent, reasonable people, rapists are not, sex offenders are not, it is ignorant in the extreme to believe that they will not take advantage of loopholes that are ripe for exploitation.”
She added: “The majority of Scots – let alone the women’s groups who campaigned vociferously against it – will be dismayed that this flawed and potentially dangerous bill has been passed by a majority of SNP and Labour MSPs.
“We all support improving the experience for trans people but that should never come at the expense of the safety of women and girls, and their hard-won rights.
“But Nicola Sturgeon’s bill – in the form that it has been passed – does put their safety at risk.
“For a majority of MSPs to vote against an amendment that would have prevented convicted sex offenders from applying for a Gender Recognition Certificate will astonish and outrage most Scots.
“The fact that no substantive amendments to the legislation were passed demonstrates how impervious many MSPs – particularly from the SNP and Greens – were to reasoned argument and public opinion on this divisive issue.
“Myself and the vast majority of my Scottish Conservative colleagues have three main objections to this bill: the inadequate three-month time limit for GRC applicants to have lived in their acquired gender, the lack of requirement for a diagnosis of gender dysphoria and the lowering of the age limit from 18 to 16.
“But because this is a matter of conscience, with strongly-held opinions on either side of the debate, our party rightly made it a free vote.
“It was shameful that the other parties made it a whipped vote in an effort to silence those in their ranks opposed to the bill.”
Alex Cole-Hamilton, left, the LibDem leader, said: “I am immensely proud that this Bill has passed in parliament today. This reform has featured in Scottish Liberal Democrat manifestos for the past two Holyrood elections, it honours party policy passed at our conferences and my parliamentary party and I have now voted as one for this Bill. It is the right thing to do.
“Scottish Liberal Democrats support reform because we believe that the prolonged and intrusive medicalised approach currently in place causes trauma to trans people who simply want to have their gender recognised on the documents which they are required to hold.
“The decision about somebody’s identity should lie with that person and that person alone- not with a panel of strangers they have never met. I wish I could offer comfort and reassurance to those who oppose the reforms we have passed today. I believe, however, that in time we will build an evidential basis to dispel any fears in their entirety.
“Today, we bring these reforms blinking into the light. Today, we right a wrong which has existed in our statute books for nearly 20 years. Today, we are solidifying the identity of trans people into the legal architecture of their lives.”
The process could still be blocked if the Scottish Government’s Westminster equivalents exercise their powers to prevent the laws “having “an adverse effect on the operation of the law as it applies to reserved matters”.
The UK equalities minister, Kemi Badenoch, previously raised concerns the bill passing could create a “divergence” between laws in Scotland and England.
Labour’s Pam Duncan-Glancy said the legislation provides MSPs with “one of those rare moments… where we all have a real opportunity to improve lives and directly tackle inequality”.
She said the Bill will help “society to accept them (trans people) and to support them to be their best selves, without barriers or additional costs or medicalisation”.
She insisted: “I believe strongly the reform we will vote for today has been a long time coming, and that is why changing the current onerous, lengthy and invasive process of legal gender recognition has always been so important to me.”
Top picture: Rachael Hamilton opposed the legislation from the outset.