Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Malta Today: Transgender marriage appeal deferred until Valentine's Day

10.1.2001, by RAPHAEL VASSALLO

Joanne Cassar: born male, but now legally recognised as a woman.

The government's appeal against the Constitutional Court verdict in the case of Joanne Cassar, originally scheduled to be heard this morning, has had to be deferred until February 14, after Chief Justice Silvio Camilleri announced that he had been involved in the original prosecution in his former capacity as Attorney General.

The appeal was filed just before Christmas by current AG Peter Grech, soon after Cassar - previously denied the opportunity to marry because the Magistrates' Court decided she was 'still a man', despite having undergone gender reassignment therapy – finally won her four-and-a-half year legal battle against the Registrar of Marriages.

In a brief judgment delivered on November 30, Mr Justice Raymond C. Pace cited a previous European Court of Human Rights ruling (Christine Goodwin vs. UK) which established that a ban on transgender marriage violated Article 12 of the European Convention on Human Rights on the right to marry, to which Malta is signatory.

Cassar's battle began in May 2006, when the Registrar of Marriages refused to issue marriage banns on the grounds that the Marriage Act prohibited unions between persons of the same gender – and despite the fact that Cassar's birth certificate had been amended post-surgery to reflect her gender change.

Cassar took the Marriage Registrar to court, and on February 12 2007, Mr Justice Gino Camilleri upheld her request and ordered the director of Public Registry to issue the necessary marriage banns.

But the registrar appealed, and in his decision to overturn the ruling in May 2008, Mr Justice Joseph R. Micallef observed that while the Marriage Act defined marriage as a union "between a man and a woman", Maltese law offered no legal definition of either gender.

The court therefore took into account various definitions, including an affidavit signed by the former chairman of the parliamentary bio-ethics committee, Dr Michael Axiak, who wrote: "after gender reassignment therapy, a person will have remained of the same sex as before the operation."

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