Trans man loses landmark court fight to be called father instead of mother on baby's birth certificate

He would have become UK’s first person to be listed as father instead of mother after giving birth

Maya Oppenheim
Women's Correspondent
Wednesday 25 September 2019 12:09 BST
Transgender man Freddie McConnell who gave birth cannot be named child's father

The first transgender man to give birth has lost a landmark court battle that would have seen him become the first person in Britain to be listed as the child’s father instead of its mother after having a baby.

Freddy McConnell argued making him register as the child’s mother on the birth certificate infringed his human rights around privacy and family life.

The 32-year-old, who had already been living as a man for years when his child was born in 2018, requested to be registered as either father or parent.

A judge ruled against Mr McConnell, who works for The Guardian as a journalist, after examining an argument at a High Court trial in London on Wednesday.

Sir Andrew McFarlane, president of the Family Division of the High Court, heard how Mr McConnell is a single parent who was born a woman but now lives as a man after having surgery.

Mr McConnell was biologically able to get pregnant and give birth but had legally become a man when the baby was born.

He took legal action against the General Register Office, which administers the registration of births and deaths in England and Wales after a registrar informed him the law stipulates those who give birth have to be registered as mothers.

Mr McConnell’s child would have become the first in the country to be born without legally having a mother in England and Wales if he had won the case.

Lawyers say that while other transgender men have given birth, they have always been registered on birth certificates as mothers.

Barrister Hannah Markham QC, who led Mr McConnell’s legal team, told the judge it was in the child’s interests for Mr McConnell to be registered as father or parent.

She argued many children were growing up in “rainbow families” – saying a child holds the right to have a parent’s gender “appropriately identified” on their birth certificate.

However, barristers representing ministers and registrars called for Mr McConnell’s claim to be dismissed.

Ben Jaffey QC and Sarah Hannett said the case shone a light on complex public policy issues about safeguarding the rights of transgender people.

But they said a registrar had a “duty in law” to register Mr McConnell as “mother” – maintaining his human rights had not been infringed upon.

Laura Russell, of equality charity Stonewall, said it was “deeply disappointing” to hear the court has ruled against Mr McConnell.

She said: “We believe this ruling is a missed opportunity to send a positive message and recognise all parents, including LGBT+ parents, for who they are. This legislation desperately needs to be updated to ensure trans people are recognised for who they are in all areas of their lives.

“It is another example of how current legislation contradicts the fragile equality trans people currently have, by creating a situation where trans people can have full recognition on some legal documents, but not on others. Updating this legislation will also benefit others in the LGBT+ community, specifically same-sex parents, who face similarly inaccurate and unequal representation on their children’s birth certificates.

“We stand with Freddy and our work continues until outdated legislation recognises the correct legal status of all lesbian, gay, bi and trans parents when their child is born.”

Mr McConnell discussed his pregnancy with Sky News earlier this month – explaining carrying his own biological child felt like the easiest option.

He told the news outlet: “It felt like one option amongst several that I should consider. Because it might be pragmatic and it might be easiest in a funny way.

“As a trans person, if you have to start accessing services – whether its adoption or surrogacy – that’s almost scarier for me because you don’t know who’s going to judge you, who’s going to gate-keep, who’s going to exclude you.”

Additional reporting by Press Association

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