Yesterday’s Queen’s Speech was, counterintuitively, not actually delivered by the Queen. Instead, our future monarch – known for his attempts at political interference – read out the speech, written by ministers, which outlines the Government’s prospective policy agenda for the upcoming Parliamentary session. In the wake of the Nationality and Borders Act and the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act, harmful legislation is not something we should be surprised by. However, today’s speech contains particular threats to the trans community that require significant resistance. These will be briefly outlined, in the order they were announced.
Brexit Freedom Bill
The first announcement was the jingoistic ‘Brexit Freedom Bill’, aimed at making it easier to repeal ‘retained’ EU legislation following our exit from the Union. This is promoted with the goal of removing 'red tape' for businesses (read here: rights protection). Many of the rights we take for granted were incorporated into domestic legislation as a result of EU directives. For example, the duty not to discriminate against people on the basis of gender reassignment was included in UK equality legislation specifically because of the Court of Justice’s ruling in P v S. Although no specific rollbacks have yet been suggested, it is important to note that this proposed Bill opens the door for a future reduction in trans rights.
Bill of Rights
The UK is a signatory to the European Convention on Human Rights, and has been since it came into force in 1953. This is entirely separate to the EU and unaffected by Brexit. It allows individuals in the UK who feel their rights have been violated to take their case to European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, where the Government can be compelled to pay damages to victims. In 1998, the Convention was incorporated into domestic law through the Human Rights Act 1998, meaning that rather than going to Strasbourg, complainants could bring human rights actions before the UK courts.
Today, the Government reiterated its intention to repeal this Act, which it feels has been interpreted too generously in favour of claimants. This is because Section 2 of the Act requires the domestic Courts to take into account the decisions and interpretations given to the rights in the Convention by the Court in Strasbourg. Significant advances in rights have derived from the analysis taken by the Strasbourg Court – for example, Christine Goodwin successfully argued that her right to private life was violated by a lack of legal recognition for her gender. This led to the Gender Recognition Act 2004.
By creating a ‘British’ Bill of Rights, domestic human rights cases will be excluded from the progressive influence of European jurisprudence. Moreover, the Government can deliberately shape the Act to limit and remove important protections. This puts our ability to uphold our human rights in significant danger.
As has already seen significant backlash from the LGBT+ community, the Government announced plans to ban conversion therapy – but not for trans people. This poses a significant threat to trans people, as has been extensively discussed. Moreover, such an exclusion is likely to significantly weaken protections for cis queer people, who are highly likely to experience attempts to coerce them into gender norms as a part of conversion therapy.
These announcements are worrying, and with a significant Parliamentary majority, measures that the Government are likely to succeed in putting through. Our only option is to organise against these attempts to damage trans rights within our community.