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ECHR rules against trans woman in marriage case

The European Court of Human Rights has ruled in Finland’s favour in the case of a woman who wanted to change her gender after gender reassignment therapy but remain married to her wife. The court ruled that she would have to get divorced to officially change her gender, as same-sex marriage is not allowed in Finland.

Image: Yle Uutisgrafiikka

A Finnish woman has lost her case brought against the government in an effort to change her identity number to reflect her new gender. The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that she can have her female gender recognised in official documents if she gets divorced and then enters a civil partnership with her wife—but that there is no obligation on the state to allow two people of the same gender to be married.

The woman was born a man in 1963, married a woman in 1996 and the couple had a child in 2002. In 2006 she changed her given names to reflect her new gender, and in 2009 she underwent gender reassignment surgery.

The woman wanted to change her personal identity number to indicate her female gender, but this was not possible as she remained married—and Finland has not legalized same-sex marriage. The couple do not want to get divorced as that would go against their religious convictions.

She brought legal action against the Finnish government under Article 8 (right to respect privacy and family life), Article 12 (the right to marry) and Article 14 (prohibition of discrimination), but lost the case in Strasbourg on Wednesday.

The court’s judgment focused on the merits of marriage as opposed to civil partnership, and ruled decisively in favour of the Finnish government.

“The Court reiterated that the Convention did not impose an obligation on States to allow same-sex marriage,” read the judgment. “Nor did it require special arrangements for situations such as the present one.”

Civil partnerships provide legal protection that is ‘almost identical to that of marriage’, according to the court, meaning that the transsexual woman must get divorced to have her new gender officially recognised.

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