Marriages for transexuals to remain illegal

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The Independent Online

Plans to review the law on marriages for people who have undergone sex-changes have been shelved to avoid a pre-election row.

Plans to review the law on marriages for people who have undergone sex-changes have been shelved to avoid a pre-election row.

The Home Secretary Jack Straw has decided to postpone a review of the law that would allow transexuals to have their new genders legally recognised until after the next election.

Ministers fear an outcry similar to that caused by the repeal of Section 28 and the lowering of the age of consent for homosexuals and are concerned that Tory leader William Hague may seize on the issue as part of his campaign to promote family values.

"We are not going to touch this until after the election," said a government source. "It's because of Section 28. It doesn't mean we're not sympathetic but it's just too sensitive."

But the decision to put off reform, for which ministers showed support after the publication of a Home Office report on the issue, will anger transexuals; they plan to launch their first-ever lobby of Parliament in an effort to get MPs to change the law so that they can register their names on their birth certificates.

It is illegal for Britain's 5,000 transexuals to marry because, without the birth certificate change, they count officially as same sex couples. Britain is one of few countries in Europe where transexual people are not legally recognised.

In a recent letter to the Labour MP Siobhain McDonagh, written on behalf of one of her constituents, the Home Office Minister Mike O'Brien said a review had been shelved.

"We have a very heavy legislative programme aimed at delivering key manifesto commitments and there is therefore no obvious opportunity in the present Parliamentary session to change the law to give full legal recognition to transsexual people in their acquired sex," wrote Mr O'Brien.

Government sources said the decision was a direct result of the damage caused by attempts to repeal Section 28, which prevents the promotion of a homosexual lifestyle by local authorities. Ministers have also halted measures to outlaw discrimination against homosexuals in the workplace also to avoid a political row.

Claire McNab of Press for Change, which lobbies on behalf of transexual people, said it was "bitterly disappointing" that the Government had not drafted a change to the law.

Britain is among the few European countries, including Andorra, Albania and Ireland, not to have changed the law to give transexuals full rights.