Article 9 - Right to marry and right to found a family
Key facts of the case:
1) The case originated in an application (no. 25680/94) against the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland lodged with the European Commission of Human Rights (“the Commission”) under former Article 25 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (“the Convention”) by a United Kingdom national, I. (“the applicant”), on 6 April 1994.
3) The applicant alleged violations of Articles 8, 12 and 14 of the Convention in respect of the legal status of transsexuals in the United Kingdom.
12) The applicant is a United Kingdom citizen born in 1955 and is a post-operative male to female transsexual. She worked for some time as a dental nurse in the army. In 1985, she applied for a course for the Enrolled Nurse (General) qualification, but was not admitted as she refused to present her birth certificate.
13) At the age of 33, the applicant retired with a disability pension on the basis of ill-health.
14) In 1993 and 1994, the applicant wrote letters to various institutions requesting amendments to the relevant legislation to allow the recognition of transsexuals' changed gender.
15) On 31 July 2001, in reply to her application for a student loan, a local authority required her to submit an original birth certificate in support of her application. On 14 August 2001, in reply to her application to be an administrative assistant in a prison, the applicant was requested to bring to an interview her birth certificate.
Outcome of the case:
For these reasons, the Court
80) It is true that the first sentence refers in express terms to the right of a man and woman to marry. The Court is not persuaded that at the date of this case it can still be assumed that these terms must refer to a determination of gender by purely biological criteria (as held by Ormrod J. in the case of Corbett v. Corbett, paragraph 17 above). There have been major social changes in the institution of marriage since the adoption of the Convention as well as dramatic changes brought about by developments in medicine and science in the field of transsexuality. The Court has found above, under Article 8 of the Convention, that a test of congruent biological factors can no longer be decisive in denying legal recognition to the change of gender of a post-operative transsexual. There are other important factors – the acceptance of the condition of gender identity disorder by the medical professions and health authorities within Contracting States, the provision of treatment including surgery to assimilate the individual as closely as possible to the gender in which they perceive that they properly belong and the assumption by the transsexual of the social role of the assigned gender. The Court would also note that Article 9 of the recently adopted Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union departs, no doubt deliberately, from the wording of Article 12 of the Convention in removing the reference to men and women (see paragraph 41 above).