Sunday, 14 April 2013

Times: Marriage law changes coming soon
Sunday, April 14, 2013 by Claudia Calleja

Joanne Cassar is inching closer to winning her battle for the right to marry. 
Photo: Paul Spiteri Lucas

Marriage law amendments that will grant those who undergo gender reassignment surgery the right to marry have been drafted and will be on the parliamentary agenda “in the coming days”, a Government spokesman has said.

The enactment of the amendments will clear the way for Joanne Cassar – who underwent gender reassignment surgery to become a woman – to withdraw her case against the Government that is pending before the European Court of Human Rights.

The case was filed in mid-2011, under a Nationalist Government, for breaching her rights by refusing to issue marriage banns after her gender was changed to female on her birth certificate.

On April 3, the new Labour Government announced that it had reached a settlement agreement with Ms Cassar.

Ms Cassar’s lawyer, David Camilleri, yesterday said that the settlement was signed last week.

In it, Ms Cassar committed herself to withdraw the case before the European Court of Human Rights once the law was amended.
Once she withdraws the case, the Government will pay her €10,000 in moral damages

Once she withdraws the case, the Government will pay her €10,000 in moral damages.

Dr Camilleri said that, in the meantime, he will be writing to the European Court of Human Rights asking it to suspend the case.

Ms Cassar had told The Times that Government’s decision to amend the law meant a lot to her.

“This makes me feel happy. Finally, I feel Malta, my country, has accepted me as one of its daughters. It would not have been the same had Malta been forced to do so by Europe,” the 31-year-old hairdresser had said.

Ms Cassar had surgery in the UK when she was 22 after being diagnosed with gender identity disorder, a conflict between a person’s physical gender and self-identification.

Ms Cassar’s battle for marriage started soon after 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 surgery.

Her wedding was planned for December 2007 – but by the time the date arrived the couple were no longer together.

In February 2007, Ms Cassar won a civil case in which the court ordered the registrar to issue the wedding banns, but the decision was overturned on appeal in May 2008. Despite having broken up from her partner, Ms Cassar decided to go ahead and fight for the right to marry.

Throughout the case, the Government stuck to its argument – that marriage can only take place between a biological male and female, and Ms Cassar’s gender was only changed on paper to protect her privacy.

In May 2011, the Constitutional Court held 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.

She then took the case to the European Court of Human Rights.

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