South of the Border
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The United Kingdom government blocked Scotland’s gender reform bill this week, an unprecedented move that Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon described as a “full-frontal attack” on the Scottish parliament, Sky News reported.
The issue relates to Scotland’s Gender Recognition Reform Bill which was passed by a majority of Scottish lawmakers last month. The draft law would lower the age of individuals – in Scotland – eligible to apply for gender reassignment to 16, and remove the requirement for a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria for a gender-recognition certificate.
But on Monday, Scotland Secretary Alister Jack – the UK government’s minister for Scotland – said the UK government will prevent the legislation from being sent to King Charles III for royal assent – the final stage of any new bill. Jack explained that the gender reform bill would have “an adverse impact on the operation of Great Britain-wide equalities legislation.”
The decision marks the first time the UK government has vetoed legislation approved by the Scottish parliament or interfered in Scottish legislative affairs in this manner since devolution 25 years ago. Scotland, which has been part of the UK for centuries, has its own government and control over certain areas of public life, such as justice and education.
While Sturgeon and equality campaigners hailed the bill’s approval as a “historic day for equality,” British officials worry that the legislation could promote gender tourism.
Others fear that people who change gender in Scotland would have a different legal status when they are in the rest of the UK.
Some senior officials had described the Scottish bill as a “constitutional nightmare.”
Meanwhile, Sturgeon had previously warned that London’s blocking of the bill could “normalize” and “embolden” the UK government to do the same with other legislative initiatives.