Wednesday, May 25, 2011 , by Claudia Calleja
Joanne Cassar, who has undergone gender reassignment, is fighting for the right to marry the man she loves when he comes along. Photo lifted from Facebook.
Joanne Cassar, who underwent gender reassignment surgery seven years ago, is insisting she is a woman for all legal intents and purposes and has the right to marry a man.
The 29-year-old feels that amending the law to allow her to strike some form of life partnership, as proposed by a court ruling, will still deprive her of her right to get married.
"I'm not inferior to other women… They can invent a million type of partnerships. I want the right to marry... I am a woman and want the rights that come with it," she told The Times.
A series of court cases that followed the Marriage Registrar's refusal to issue the marriage banns in 2006 ended on Monday when the Constitutional Court ruled that Ms Cassar's fundamental rights to marriage and family life had been breached. However, this was not because of the banns issue but because there was a lacuna in the law that did not allow people to enter into any form of life partnership after undergoing gender reassignment surgery.
Ms Cassar had underdone surgery in the UK when she was 22 after being diagnosed with gender identity disorder, a conflict between a person's physical or apparent gender and that person's self-identification.
Ms Cassar is insisting that since the state agreed to change her gender to female on her birth certificate, she is a woman for all legal purposes including marriage.
After exhausting all her legal options in Malta, her lawyers – David Camilleri and Jose Herrera – will next week open a case in the European Court of Human Rights.
Asked if there were plans to change the law following Monday's ruling, the Justice Ministry declined to comment on the matter since Ms Cassar declared she would appeal to the European court and comments could prejudice the case.
Ms Cassar admitted she was initially very disappointed after hearing the ruling.
"I was in a bad state at first but then I picked myself up as I realised I had always been willing to take the case to Europe. I always knew it would end there.
"I don't feel I lost Monday's case completely... Even though the court did not say that wedding banns should have been issued, it recognised that my fundamental rights were breached...
"I feel the court acted as (Pontius) Pilate... It washed its hands of the problem and circled rather than solved it," she said.
Ms Cassar insisted she was fighting for her right to marry. She was not going to get married tomorrow but wanted the right to use it when the time was right.
"Like any other woman I feel the best thing in life is getting married and having a family. And don't bring children into the argument... For me marriage is not only about having children. You marry a man because you love him," she said adding that hopefully, one day, she would get to wear a white dress.
"If I win the case in Europe the victory will be for the whole country," she said, adding she also wanted compensation for all the suffering and expenses she incurred as a result of the state's refusal to issue her wedding banns in 2006.
Ms Cassar's battle for marriage started in September that year when she and her partner applied for the wedding banns. The Marriage Registrar refused to issue them even though Ms Cassar had legally changed her gender to female on her birth certificate after the surgery.
Her wedding was planned for December 2007 although the couple is no longer together.
In February 2007, Ms Cassar won a civil case in which the court ordered the Registrar to issue the wedding banns, only for the decision to be revoked on appeal in May 2008.
She then opened a case in the First Hall of the Civil Court in its constitutional jurisdiction, claiming a breach of human rights. The court ruled in her favour last December when it found that the registrar could not have refused to issue the banns once she was recognised as a woman.
The Attorney General appealed claiming a wrong interpretation of the law and on Monday the Constitutional Court found that although Ms Cassar's rights had been breached this was due to shortcomings in the law to cater for some form of partnership for people in her situation. It did not result that the banns should have been issued.
[Click on the hyperlink above to view the comments on the Times' website.]