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Angela Watkinson: The issues are so controversial. People other than those who apply for the gender recognition certificate will be deeply affected, especially children of pre-existing marriages. If the biological father of children has a newly acquired gender, the children will have, to all intents and purposes and outward appearances, two mothers, but one of them will be their biological father. The effect on the children and spouses can be profound, and we need to balance the respective rights of all the people concerned. The institution of marriage is greater than its component parts and, for that reason, I shall vote against the Bill.
Mr. Leigh : I shall vote against the Bill if for no other reason than because it will require public officials to rewrite history and tell an untruth. If I, Edward Leigh, were to choose after 53 years in this world to change into Esmeralda Leigh that would be my own affair. Those of us who oppose the Bill do not argue with such choices. We argue with the fact that I could then require a public official to change my birth certificate and deny that 53 years ago I was born Edward Leigh. For that reason alone, this is a deeply disturbing Bill.
I shall vote against the Bill for a second reason. The hon. Member for Oxford, West and Abingdon (Dr. Harris) mentioned the anguished arguments about
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how those of us who opposed the Bill should vote on the amendment tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr. Mitchell). It is not surprising that there were anguished arguments. In the end, many of us voted for the amendment because we thought that it would be absurd if, having obtained the certificate, my marriage were automatically dissolved. But the Government had put themselves in an impossible position. They had to oppose that amendment because otherwise they would have driven a coach and horses through their professed strong opposition to single-sex marriages. The situation was illogical and impossible, and there was no way round it.
The third reason I shall vote against the Bill was adduced by the hon. Member for North Antrim (Rev. Ian Paisley). I am disappointed that my amendment was not passed. Many people will disagree with strongly held religious views, but such views exist out there. Many people believe, in the words of Psalm 139,
"For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother's womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works".
Richard Younger-Ross: It has been said that the Bill was a long time waiting. I was particularly reminded of that when the hon. Member for South-West Bedfordshire (Andrew Selous) made a slip of the tongue and referred to the hon. Member for Hampstead and Highgate (Glenda Jackson) as the hon. Gentleman. That reminded me of the 1950s film, "Plan 9 from Outer Space", made by Ed Wood, who also made a movie called "Glen or Glenda?", about a transgendered person who wanted to change from one sex to the other.
We think of transgender as a new issue, but that was in the 1950s. The issue is new only to the extent that science has allowed us to make physical changes to a person's outward appearance so that they can acquire the gender that their mind tells them is theirs. Historically, the issue goes back an extremely long way. A Roman emperor who was a boy of 17 when he became emperor was transgendered. A medieval monk, the Abbé de Choisy, was transgendered. It was said of him that he carried his habit in a feminine manner. There was a French
The hon. Gentleman is ahead of me. There was a French spy who lived out his life, and died, in England as a woman, and, to keep the balance right, there was a pirate whose name I cannot recall who did the reverse. People have been transgendered not only over the past couple of decades, nor even over the past few centuries, but over a couple of millennia, so it is not true to say that the issue is new and a fabrication of modern society.
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The legislation will help to stop little boys running down the street taunting someone who has had a sex change. It will correct a wrong that we have allowed to continue in our society for too long. We have denied people the gender, not of their choice as has been said, but that their mind tells them is theirs. That is the fundamental point of the Bill.
There are failings in the Bill. The loss of the amendment on marriage tests me hard, as a Roman Catholic, in my support of the Bill. However, on balance, I shall support the measure. I hope that some of the issues raised by religious groups will be dealt with directly in the secondary legislation to which the Minister alluded. It would be wrong for a Church group to be prosecuted because the deacon had told the vicar that someone applying to be married was transgendered. In Committee, I understood that that would not be the case, but that is no longer clear from what the Minister said today. He shakes his head as though I have got that wrong, but he clearly said that there could be such a prosecution. If I misunderstood him, he has the chance to correct me.
Richard Younger-Ross: I thank the Minister for that clarification, which is important. If there were ways to reinforce through secondary legislation the other issues that were raised, it would be beneficial, even if we were only doing that to avoid litigation.
Mr. Robathan: As the hon. Member for Teignbridge (Richard Younger-Ross) reminded us, this is certainly not a new issue. Jan Morris wrote "Conundrum" well over 30 years ago. To avoid doubt and put this beyond peradventure, I should say that I have enormous sympathy for people who find themselves in this very difficult and complex transgender situation. No one should pretend that it is not complex. It is certainly not trivial. I happen to think that the House should spend its timeit often doesdealing with the issues of just one person, and this important issue affects many people.
Of course this issue needs consideration, but I have listened to speeches on Second and Third Reading and the dissenting voices among the Opposition made some good points that have not been answered. I do not always agree with the hon. Member for North Antrim (Rev. Ian Paisley), but I did today largely. I do not always agree with my hon. Friend the Member for South Staffordshire (Sir Patrick Cormack), but I thought that he made an excellent speech.
This is not good legislation. What is it for? It will certainly not satisfy all transsexuals, yet we are saying, "Oh well, it will satisfy most, so that's all right." Yet if we are standing up for the rights of one or two people, surely we should satisfy all if we possibly can.
Will the Bill improve human rights? Will it make us a more civilised society? Personally, I do not think so. The families who will be appalled and split asunder by the Bill include those with a husband who has been depressed and prescribed hormone treatment. I do not believe that we are yet in a position to legislate for all those complicated issues, and nor should we. What happens to the people who undergo operations, cross genders and then decide that they want to go back? What can we do about that? It is not easy. I pose those questions to the Minister, and I will certainly give way if he wishes to answer.
Despite marvellous intentions, I am afraid that the Bill opens a can of worms, and we all know what happens when a can of worms is opened. New clause 7, which was proposed by my hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr. Mitchell), revealed the outcome: we will split asunder some people who are currently legally married if they wish to follow such a path. The Bill poses as many questions as it answers. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Lewisham, East (Ms Prentice) tries to intervene from a sedentary position, but she has not considered all the difficulties that will arise. It is bad legislation. Good intentions are not enough. As my hon. Friend said, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. For that reason, I shall vote against the Bill.
Question put, That the Bill be now read the Third time:
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