Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Malta Today: Government hours away from agreement on transsexual marriage rights

An agreement between government and Joanne Cassar is understood to be “imminent” following several meetings between the two sides.
Tuesday 2 April 2013 - 13:16 by Raphael Vassallo

Joanne Cassar

An agreement between government and Joanne Cassar - the aggrieved party in a European court case against Malta over the rights of transsexual persons to marry according to their reassigned gender - is understood to be "imminent" following several meetings between the two sides.

Cassar filed a case against Malta in the European Court of Human Rights, after unsuccessfully suing the Registrar of Marriages for refusing to issue the banns necessary for her to marry her long-term (male) partner.

Dr David Camilleri, who represents Cassar alongside Dr Jose Herrera (now parliament secretary for culture), confirmed that meetings have been held with government respresentatives to this effect: the most recent one yesterday.

The issue was also discussed at Cabinet level this morning, paving the way to a legal amendment that would allow Cassar to marry, after this right had been denied to her by the Court of Appeal, after the Attorney General challenged an earlier favourable ruling by the lower courts.

The legal amendment will reflect the principle that, by recognising a person's reassigned gender identity through documentation (eg, ID card or driver's licence), the State also de facto commits itself to acknowledging and protecting all the rights and privileges associated with that particular gender identity.

The announcement is expected later today or early tomorrow, and once the legal amendment are in place, the case filed against Malta by Cassar will be withdrawn.

Joanne Cassar's ordeal began in 2006, when - after undergoing a complex and expensive procedure to change her sex from male to female, and having her birth certificate amended accordingly - she was refused permission to marry on the basis that the Marriage Act prohibited unions between persons of the same gender.

Cassar took the Marriage Registrar to court, and on February 12 2007, after noting that the proposed union did not contravene any provision of the Marriage Act, Mr Justice Gino Camilleri upheld her request and ordered the director of Public Registry to issue the marriage banns.

But the marriage registrar appealed, and in his decision to overturn the ruling last May, 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."

Mr Justice Micallef also noted that Cassar's birth certificate, allowing a change of name and gender, was only intended to protect the right to privacy and to avoid embarrassment. He therefore upheld the marriage registrar's request, and annulled the marriage banns.

Afterwards, Cassar expressed bitter disappointment at the ruling. "One court allowed me to get married but another took it away from me," she said.

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