A piece by Frances Gibb, Legal Editor, in yesterday’s Times:
A transgender man who is attempting to be registered as a baby’s father after giving birth cannot obtain child benefit, the High Court was told yesterday.
His legal challenge, which could result in the baby becoming the first born in England and Wales to not legally have a mother, is delaying the issue of a birth certificate and therefore the granting of the benefit.
Lawyers say that the baby is the child of a single parent who was born a woman but now lives as a man after undergoing surgery. They have told judges that the man had been biologically able to become pregnant and give birth but had legally become a man once the child was born.
He wants to be identified as the child’s “father” or “parent” on a birth certificate. However, a registrar told him that the law requires people who give birth to be registered as mothers. He took legal action after complaining of discrimination but it may be months before a full hearing. In the mean time he cannot obtain child benefit because no birth certificate has been issued.
The man claims that forcing him to register as the child’s “mother” breaches his human right to respect for privacy and family life. His identity cannot be revealed for legal reasons.
Lawyers say that other transgender men have given birth but have been registered on birth certificates as mothers. The case has been the subject of several hearings in the Family Division of the High Court in London. Lawyers representing the man are lined up against counterparts representing the Registrar General for England and Wales and government ministers.
Mr Justice Holman was told that the baby had been given a passport because British citizenship had been established. However, Ben Jaffey, QC, who is representing ministers told the judge that child benefit had not yet been granted. Mr Jaffey said that a birth certificate could not be issued until the judge had ruled on the challenge.
Mr Justice Holman said that the man was taking a stand and “mounting a head-on challenge to a wall of legislation”. He suggested that Sir Andrew McFarlane, the most senior family court judge in England and Wales, may oversee a trial and make a decision.
At a preliminary hearing in June Mr Justice Francis said that the issue had never been raised in a court in England and Wales before. He added that if the man won his fight, ministers might have to consider changing the law.
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